Hard Knocks
by lennanightrunner

Pairing: Draco Malfoy/Ron Weasley
Rating:
NC-17
Warnings:
Explicit sexual content, profanity
Word Count: 29,356

Genre(s): Smut, Drama
Canon:
Through DH (EWE)
Artist:
__hibiscus

Summary: After the end of the War, the Ministry of Magic decides that all Hogwarts students must repeat the previous year of school in order to qualify for their exams. Thus, Harry, Hermione, and Ron return to Hogwarts for their seventh year. To Ron's surprise, Draco Malfoy returns to school as well. Having long struggled with a sexual preoccupation with Malfoy, Ron is shocked to discover that he may actually be able to act on some of his feelings. His trysts with the former Death Eater are confusing at best, and Ron soon discovers that even the most physical of relationships are rarely free of complications.

Author's Note: This fic is third-person limited from Ron's perspective in order to characterize Draco from outside. This allows Draco to have a certain level of mystique, unpredictability, and inscrutability. Though Ron is essentially the 'main' character, I still consider the story to be Draco-centric.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.




Chapter One: Sticks and Stones

Wanker.

Tosser.

Git.

Ron’s thoughts always became a series of curse words when Draco Malfoy opened his mouth.

Well, on a normal day. On days when Malfoy was being particularly charming, the cursing then dissolved into an all-consuming rage. Even Ron, who prided himself on having the most colorful vocabulary of any of his friends, was at a loss to find a curse word foul enough to describe what Malfoy was like on those days.

On the best of days, Ron found other, perhaps more polite, words to associate with Malfoy:

Disdain. Ridicule. Condescension.

The disdain in Malfoy’s eyes, the condescension in his manner, the ridicule in his words: all had long ago solidified the chip on Ron’s shoulder. He had always been insecure--about his family’s financial situation, his own failings, the successes of his siblings and friends--but a jibe from Malfoy was worth ten from anyone else, and it took longer than it should have for Ron to realize why that was.

He couldn’t say when it had begun. There was a feeling within him that he was certain hadn’t always been there, but it had become increasingly more difficult to ignore as he advanced through his years at Hogwarts.

It was a fire that burned even stronger than his rage, and he hated it. It intensified and increased his insecurities. He began to feel a horrible need to somehow prove himself to Malfoy; to earn a word or sign of approval or respect from him. He knew that there was no reason to want that, nor any chance of ever getting it, but the need persisted nonetheless.

All of it made each one of Malfoy’s jibes much worse, and it was then that Ron began to understand how powerful words could be.

The need caused an ache within him that grew with every insult and slight. Each time the blond spit insults at him, Ron couldn’t help but admire his aristocratic features; the rare and cold grey shade of his eyes; the way every hair on his head was always in perfect order. Soon the flush that appeared on Ron’s freckled cheeks at one of Malfoy’s slurs was not only caused by his anger.

As the ache grew, so did Ron’s bitterness and resentment. Wasn’t it bad enough that he had to grapple with desires that were different from other boys’? If he had to feel these things for someone, why did it have to be him? Malfoy was the last person in the world that Ron wanted to be attracted to; the last person he would ever want to have that kind of power over him.

Though later he had no idea how, Ron was able to make it through school without acting on any of his inclinations. The fact that he was afraid to certainly hadn’t hurt. He was actually relieved when it became clear that he and Hermione would be accompanying Harry on his search for the horcruxes. It was certainly a terrifying prospect, but at least it would get him away from Malfoy. He never wanted to see that stuck-up muggle-hating Death Eater ever again, unless of course he was groveling at Ron’s feet after Harry killed Voldemort.

And then they had survived the war, and it was over, and it was time to rebuild. Ron hadn’t been surprised when the Ministry decided that every student who had attended Hogwarts during the last year of the war, as well as every student who hadn’t because they had been excluded for being halfblood or muggle-born, was required to do the year over in order to finish.

The only way to deal with the situation was to double the size of the first-year class so that eleven-year-olds wouldn’t have to wait to come to school and the system wouldn’t be thrown off because of that change. Assistants were provided to professors who required help in managing the extra students, and the house dormitories were temporarily modified through magic to be able to accommodate them for the year.

Ron was perfectly happy to return to school. It was a way to return to some state of normalcy after everything that had happened. Of course things had changed, but at least in this small way they could have something like what they had once had, before they became full-fledged witches and wizards and had to sort out what they were going to do next.

It had never crossed his mind that Malfoy would be there, too.

*****

Hogwarts was a strange place when they returned to it. It felt to Ron as if they had been gone far longer than a year, and its halls and towers and corridors were full of smells that triggered memories of the adolescence he had abruptly left. He felt old being there, and he could tell that the others felt it, too.

But they at least, he remembered, had not had to endure the experience of being at the school under Voldemort’s control. Ginny, Luna, and Neville would sometimes get a haunted look in their eyes when visiting certain parts of the castle. Ron knew better than to ask why.

Many things had changed, but Ron considered that perhaps the greatest changes had occurred within the students and professors rather than in the building or the school’s administrative policies. It was remarkable how quickly the castle had been repaired, but little of its architecture had been altered. Though it was decided that there should no longer be official house tables in the Great Hall, the older students tended to stick to their accustomed spots out of habit, and each house still had its own passworded dormitory and common room.

It was in the process of observing this new seating arrangement during the beginning of term feast that Ron first noticed him.

Malfoy’s here,” he said to Harry, with genuine surprise.

“Of course he is, Ron,” Hermione said after swallowing a sip of pumpkin juice. “Didn’t you notice he was on the train?”

Harry half-smiled to himself and said nothing.

“No,” Ron said dismissively. “But why is he here?”

“How should I know?”

“You know everything,” Harry quipped.

Hermione gave Harry an annoyed look, but then softened it with a smile.

“Would’ve thought he’d never have the nerve to show his face here again.” Ron glanced over at the Slytherin table again. “Half his house is gone anyway. Think his mum and dad made him?”

“His parents are in Azkaban, Ron,” Hermione said soberly.

Both his and Harry’s faces became instantly serious as well.

“Right,” Ron said quietly.

It was the first time Ron had ever felt pity for Draco Malfoy.

*****

Typically, though, Malfoy made sure that Ron wouldn’t feel sorry for him for long. Within twelve hours of noticing him in the Great Hall, Ron had been given reason to loathe him again.

It was time to begin classes again. All of the seventh-years had the same schedules they’d had or ought to have had the first time they’d attempted their final year at Hogwarts. Their classmates seemed to be experiencing a sense of déjŕ vu, but Ron, Harry, and Hermione had not started their seventh year at all when they were supposed to, so they didn’t know what to expect.

Because they were still planning on becoming Aurors, they would all be taking many of the same courses they had taken in sixth year. Ron was a little indignant at the thought that any of them needed any more training considering everything they’ve been through, and he could tell that Harry and Hermione felt much the same way, but they still wouldn’t be able to start careers unless they finished their schooling.

When breakfast was over they headed off to Potions. So lost in his thoughts was Ron that he left his bookbag at the table and had to tell Harry and Hermione to go on without him. At least Slughorn would be lenient about his tardiness than other professors would.

He was one of the last students out of the Great Hall. The breakfast dishes had disappeared back into the kitchen, leaving the tables bare. Not wanting to be later than he could avoid, he rushed through the large doors of the hall toward a nearby corridor.

Or at least, he tried to rush to the corridor. He was so intent on his objective that a few strides after he’d emerged from the Great Hall he slammed into another black-robed student. The impact knocked them both to the cold stone floor, and Ron knew instantly that his elbow would bear a dark bruise in a few hours. He swore as he got to his feet. He knew the collision had been his fault, but that didn’t stop him being annoyed.

There was a seventh-year Potions book near his feet, he noticed, but it wasn’t his. He picked it up and turned to hand it to whichever of his classmates he had crashed into. The other student was muttering curse words and brushing himself off irritably. His hair was short and blond. Then grey eyes locked on his and Ron’s mouth went dry.

The rest of his body went rigid, but he was able to hold out the book tentatively. Malfoy snatched it out of his hand. Ron couldn’t help admire how, though Malfoy was angry, he managed to shove the book back into his own bag with a certain sort of grace.

“Keep your hands off my things,” Malfoy sneered.

Ron’s cheeks burned and his eyes narrowed in indignation. “Sorry,” he spat sarcastically, “I forgot you don’t like blood traitors dirtying you up. Silly me.”

Malfoy seemed to flinch at the words “blood traitor,” and looked around as if to see if anyone had heard. As the usually flawlessly pale cheeks unexpectedly flushed, Ron immediately regretted what he had said. It was careless to mention his family’s prejudices to Malfoy, especially considering what had happened. Ron imagined that if Malfoy so much as mouthed the word “mudblood” he might be chucked out of Hogwarts in minutes.

“It’s nothing to do with your blood,” Malfoy hissed. “Dirt and Weasleys go together like bludgers and bruises.”

Ron bristled. Why had he bothered picking up the bloody book? Why had he felt sorry for what he said? Every time he let his guard down, Malfoy dealt him another blow. Why should Ron pull punches if he didn’t?

“Your family’s probably pretty dirty now too,” Ron said with a vindictive smile. “The way I hear it, it’s hard to keep clean in Azkaban.”

“I don’t know,” Draco countered in a tone that was the verbal equivalent of winding one’s arm back for a blow, “I’m sure your brother’s got more than his fair share, as there’s plenty of dirt in the ground.”

There was a split second during which Ron felt as if the air had been sucked out of his lungs. Then, before he knew he had recovered, his fist had decided to return the verbal blow with a physical one. His knuckles connected with Draco’s jaw so forcefully that when his hand swung back down it was throbbing in pain.

The other boy had been knocked to the ground again, but he got back to his feet and faced Ron with cold fury in his eyes. He brought his hand up to touch his jaw, and his fingers came away bloody from a cut made on his lip by his teeth. In a move that surprised Ron, Malfoy slid the sleeve of his impeccably white shirt along his jaw to wipe the blood away.

Foolishly, Ron allowed the rush of victory to overwhelm his good sense. Malfoy used the opportunity to draw his wand from his pocket and point it at Ron’s face. Ron belatedly fumbled for his own and raised it to protect himself.

It was just then that Professor McGonagall happened upon them.

“That is quite enough of that!”

Both boys turned reluctantly toward their professor, who was storming toward them with a look of outrage on her already usually stern features. Malfoy’s expression was one of sulky disdain; Ron’s was a mix of poorly contained anger and guilt.

“Mr. Weasley,” she said severely, “explain to me what has happened to Mr. Malfoy’s lip.”

“He--” Ron stammered.

“Never mind,” the professor interrupted, “I don’t want to hear excuses. Detention, both of you. Report to my classroom directly after lessons today.”

“Yes, professor,” Ron said sullenly, but Malfoy only nodded slightly and looked away.

As soon as Professor McGonagall had continued down the hallway, Malfoy snatched up his bag, gave Ron one last superior look, and stormed off toward Slughorn’s classroom. Ron hoped that neither the professor nor his friends would ask him to explain, because he was in no mood to try to turn the fury he was feeling back into coherent words.


Chapter Two: Force of Quill

McGonagall’s detention was as interminable as usual. She almost always set them to do lines, and this time was no different. Granted, it was much better than detentions involving physical labor, but it was mind-numbingly boring.

Ron took out ink, quill, and parchment, and scribbled the first of what would apparently be four hundred lines: “I am neither a troll nor a first-year student and it is unacceptable to act as such, especially in the corridors.” McGonagall’s tendency toward lengthy redundancy was both a blessing and a curse: it lessened the monotony by a very slight degree, but it lengthened the amount of time it took to write a line.

Ron and Malfoy sat hunched over the long desk they were told to sit at, each as far to their own side as possible. Ron unfortunately knew from experience that writing this number of lines might take over three hours at the speed he wrote, and would leave his hand sore and cramped for at least a day afterward. He was doubly annoyed by the situation when it became clear that Malfoy could write much more quickly than he could, and in a much neater hand as far as Ron could see.

By the time an hour and a half had passed, Ron’s neck and shoulders were developing several knots and his wand arm and hand were aching. Malfoy seemed to be in no discomfort at all, which annoyed Ron even further.

Professor McGonagall looked up from the essays she was grading and broke the silence. She announced that she was going to make a short trip to the staff room, and that if either of them attempted to sneak out, or did any more rule breaking, they would find themselves spending every evening that week doing lines, no matter how much homework they had been assigned.

Ron saw Malfoy roll his eyes, but they both nodded their understanding of her orders. The moment she was gone, however, Malfoy took the opportunity to reinstigate their fight.

“Thanks for landing us here, Weasley. If you hadn’t tried to break my jaw, she wouldn’t have known we were dueling.”

“You’re blaming me?” Ron stared at him in angry amazement. “After what you said! You should be grateful I didn’t knock one of your teeth out.”

“You’re right,” Malfoy drawled sarcastically. “Thanks ever so much.” And then, muttered as an afterthought: “Ginger git.”

“Besides,” Ron said through clenched teeth, determined not to show how much Malfoy’s earlier remarks had hurt and infuriated him. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. “Someone had to mess you up a bit. You care so much about your face and your hair you might as well be a girl.”

Malfoy turned and raised an elegant eyebrow. “Been looking, have you?”

Ron stared at his parchment resolutely and wrote another line. Malfoy chuckled and moved his chair closer to Ron’s.

“By the way,” he continued, “did your girlfriend teach you to duel without your wand? Because I think she hit me harder than you did.”

“She’s not my--” Ron began, but was interrupted immediately.

“Not even man enough for a mu--” Malfoy stopped himself and switched mid-word, “--muggle-born, is that it?”

Ron had had enough. He threw down his quill and kicked Malfoy’s chair back toward the other side of the table. Malfoy was knocked to the floor, and in a moment he’d sprung back to his feet and lunged at Ron. Apparently he’d forgotten that real wizards only dueled with wands. But Ron had grown up with five older brothers, and if there was anything he knew how to do well, it was hold his own in a fight.

He grabbed Malfoy’s hand and twisted his arm up behind his back. Then he slammed the other boy’s chest against the nearest wall and warned in a ragged voice, “I wouldn’t try that again.”

Malfoy said nothing, and Ron soon realized that it had been a very bad idea to render him immobile in this fashion. It put him right up against Malfoy’s back, with only the latter’s arm between them. Ron’s breath soon became strained for a very different reason.

The blond chuckled, even though his cheek was pressed against rough stone and his arm must have been hurting pretty badly. “Trying to get us more detention? Could it be that you want to spend more time with me, Weasley? I’m touched.”

Ron growled and again slammed Malfoy against the wall more forcefully this time, to emphasize the kind of damage he could do. He smiled in self-satisfaction when Malfoy let out an involuntary cry of pain as his arm was jerked and his cheek scraped against the wall. Now Malfoy’s breath had become a bit strained as well; no doubt the position Ron had him in made it difficult to breathe.

It suddenly occurred to Ron that Malfoy hadn’t told him to get off. In fact, he wasn’t fighting back at all. He remained pinned against the wall by Ron’s body without protestation. Ron didn’t like it when Malfoy did things that seemed out of character. It usually meant he was up to something.

As his thoughts wandered, he let his hand fall away and stretched his wrist. It already was stiff and aching from the lines he had written, and gripping Malfoy’s arm was painful. He was wary of the fact that Malfoy could now get away and retaliate, but he remained on his guard. Hopefully the other boy would realize that it would probably be best if they both got back to writing lines before McGonagall returned.

Unexpectedly, Malfoy turned around so that his back was against the wall. Ron snapped to attention in case he needed to defend himself, but Malfoy simply stood there and looked at Ron with the strangest expression. Ron couldn’t identify what it was, and that made him uneasy.

“Let’s get back before McGonagall gives us another week’s worth,” Ron said in a hushed voice in case their professor was about to return.

Malfoy just continued to look at him with that indefinable expression on his face. There was something in his eyes that Ron found very unsettling. This must be some kind of game, Ron thought: Malfoy wanted to irritate him by refusing to respond.

He made a frustrated noise and was about to pull away and go back to the desk, but Malfoy suddenly moved. He grabbed the front of Ron’s robes and hauled him back. Ron raised an arm to protect himself, certain that Malfoy was about to attack him again. What he felt rather than a blow, however, was a mouth crashing against his.

Warm, strong lips met his, and Ron was too paralyzed with shock to fully realize what was happening. He wasn’t allowed time to respond before Malfoy’s tongue was running along his lower lip and demanding entrance into his mouth. His mouth apparently knew what to do on its own, because Ron certainly didn’t, and as the kiss deepened he was dimly aware that he could taste the residual blood from the cut in Malfoy’s lip.

As soon as Ron felt that he might be able to move again and decide what to do about this very unexpected development, however, the kiss was abruptly broken. He had just enough time to take a much-needed breath amidst his confusion before Malfoy’s fist connected with his cheekbone.

He staggered back, utterly dazed and in pain.

McGonagall chose that very second to return to the classroom. She took one look at the scrapes on Malfoy’s face, the blood from his reopened lip wound, and Ron’s reddened and quickly bruising cheek, and her eyes narrowed. Ron’s relief that she hadn’t caught them while Malfoy was kissing him nearly overshadowed his consternation about being caught fighting.

Nearly. He definitely didn’t fancy another week of detention, especially since he wasn’t yet used to his seventh-year workload. On the other hand, chilled blood was racing through his veins at the thought of what might have happened if McGonagall had walked in a mere few seconds sooner. They’d both be lucky indeed if all they got was detention after what they’d done.

She pointed sharply to the table where their abandoned parchment lay and they--even Malfoy--obediently sat down in silence. Perhaps Malfoy was as relieved as Ron was to have escaped by the skin of their teeth.

“I expected more of you two!” McGonagall began as she looked down at them with intense disapproval. “I would have thought that after all you’ve been through, after what we’ve all been through, you’d be above these juvenile displays of masculinity.”

Ron hung his head in shame. She was right. How could he have forgotten so soon that even though they were back in school, their lives, their world had been changed forever? He was a war hero, for Merlin’s sake! Not only was he of age, but he had been through more than most wizards twice as old as he was. He should know better.

Malfoy, on the other hand, didn’t look remotely abashed. He sat next to Ron, defiantly looking away from both him and McGonagall.

“This kind of inter-house antagonism will not be tolerated. It seems I’ll have to make an example of you two.”

This did not sound good.

“You’re not boys anymore. You need responsibility.”

This did not sound good at all.

“You will be responsible for taking care of the animals used in my classes.”

“What?” Ron asked before thinking.

McGonagall gave him a stern look, but continued.

“You will report to this classroom daily and stay until the work is complete. During the school week, you will do so directly after lessons are over for the day. On the weekends, you will do so before supper.”

Ron groaned inwardly. What was the point of this?

“You will do this without fail and without complaint. I consider this a very lenient punishment. I will know if you neglect this task, and if you do not complete it you will face far more severe consequences. Do I make myself perfectly plain?”

“Yes, Professor,” Ron said sullenly, but Malfoy continued to look away and did not respond.

McGonagall shifted her eyes to Malfoy and seemed to direct her next threat at him in particular. “I am not afraid of considering expulsion if this behavior continues.”

Malfoy’s head snapped up at the word ‘expulsion,’ and what little color it usually bore drained from it. He must really not want to go home, Ron thought. He didn’t blame him: with his parents in Azkaban and no way to get a job without finishing school, Malfoy would be left with very few options.

“Do I make myself plain?” she repeated with her eyes locked on Malfoy.

He swallowed visibly and cleared his throat.

“Yes, professor.”


Chapter Three: Cage Match

Predictably, Ron arrived to their unorthodox detention a good ten minutes before Malfoy did. He was already annoyed that Harry and Hermione got to go back to the common room before dinner and start on their homework--yes, he would even rather be doing homework than be here. They had been sympathetic about his punishment, but he could tell that they were slightly amused that he had landed himself in an indefinite form of detention on his first day back. Hermione had that irritating sort of smugness about her that told him she thought he deserved it.

Malfoy strutted in with that studied air of unconcern that he had clearly cultivated from a young age. Both he and Ron had gone to the hospital wing early that morning to erase the evidence and pain of their altercations the previous night, and both looked as if nothing had happened.

The blond tossed his bookbag on a nearby desk, and it flinched at the impact. McGonagall’s desks had retained some of the animation she had lent them during the final battle, and she seemed too fond of them to remove the enchantment, choosing instead to let it wear off on its own. They were relatively well-behaved during lessons, but every now and then chose to act up. They seemed to take particular delight in startling unsuspecting first-years when they were bored.

Ron rolled his eyes and opened the door to the room adjacent to the Transfiguration classroom. Tanks and cages of all sizes and shapes lined the walls, and various jars, bottles, bins, and boxes were interspersed among them where space allowed. On a table in the middle of the room was a piece of parchment. Ron picked it up and saw that it was a detailed list of the tasks that needed to be done to clean the animals’ enclosures and feed them and all of that.

Malfoy stood in the doorway with an expression of extreme distaste marring his features. Ron agreed with his sentiments, though he didn’t feel that he did so with as much disdain. The room didn’t smell particularly good, and they would not have the benefit of using magic to do this like McGonagall surely did. Next to the parchment was an assortment of rags, brushes, and other cleaning materials.

It was going to be a long afternoon.

They worked in silence. Malfoy seemed to systematically choose the enclosures that were the least dirty and take as much time on them as he could. He must have thought--correctly, unfortunately--that Ron would pick up the slack just so that he could leave as soon as possible. Lazy prig.

About fifteen minutes into the process, a young lemur escaped from the cage Malfoy was cleaning. It hopped up onto the boy’s shoulder, wrapped its long ringed tail around his arm, and happily began grooming his slick blond hair. Malfoy determinedly pretended that it wasn’t there and continued cleaning the cage. Ron, on the other hand, burst into hysterical laughter.

Malfoy bristled, but didn’t turn around. Finally realizing that he couldn’t ignore the problem any longer, he grabbed the animal by the scruff of its neck with his free hand. It instinctively went limp, and Malfoy was able to extricate his arm from its tail and toss it back into the now clean cage.

Ron couldn’t stop laughing. Malfoy glared at him sourly and slammed the cage door shut. He turned back toward the adjacent cage. He blinked once, twice. His cheeks reddened. Without saying a word, he moved on to the next. As he moved on, Ron was able to see the contents of the cage: ferrets.

He laughed so hard he could scarcely breathe. He laughed until tears were in his eyes and he had to brace himself against the table. He would’ve paid money to do this detention. He wondered if Harry and Hermione would believe him when he told them about this.

They continued cleaning in silence, though Ron occasionally couldn’t help but let out an amused snort or break into a grin. As the minutes wore on, however, his mind began to wander to more serious matters; to the reason they had landed themselves here in the first place.

The first fight had just been a fight, pure and simple. Malfoy had earned the damage Ron dealt to his jaw, and then some. If he’d had his way, Ron would’ve bloodied his face until the smug bastard couldn’t make that condescending smirk anymore, at least until Pomfrey fixed him up. To say that about Fred was unforgivably cruel, even for Malfoy. It stung Ron doubly: firstly because the loss of Fred was still an open wound within him when he thought of it, and secondly because cruel words from Malfoy cut twice as deeply as those said by anyone else.

And they’d fought again. That made sense. As if Malfoy hadn’t already done enough to earn Ron’s anger, he’d baited him. Ron wished fervently that he’d broken that slimy ferret’s arm when he’d twisted it around. If he was going to end up with more detention anyway, he might as well have done as much damage as possible.

But the kiss. Malfoy had kissed him. It was too strange to be true, yet it was too unbelievable for Ron to have made it up. And it wasn’t just a kiss; it was lips-tongue all too quickly and it had stolen Ron’s breath and left him completely unguarded against the fist that followed.

Had it just been a diversion? Had Malfoy done it to distract Ron? To wind him up? It made absolutely no sense. If it was just to take the piss out of him, then he hadn’t needed to go that far. He needn’t have pretended to be so... enthusiastic.

Ron’s cheeks burned and he was careful to keep his face turned away from Malfoy. He was done cleaning and moved on to giving the animals food and water. He tried to focus on the task, but his mind wandered back to the way it had felt when he was pressed against Malfoy’s back; the thrill that coursed through him at the victory of overpowering him; the intense and bewildering warmth and taste of his first kiss from a bloke. So different, so much more thrilling, than the strange and awkward interludes with Lavender had been. She had actually been one of the final factors that solidified his understanding of who he was and what he wanted.

It was too brief, he thought with frustration. It wasn’t fair that it had happened so unexpectedly and so quickly. It was Malfoy. He had imagined that moment countless times, but only as a fantasy. He had always perfectly understood that it could never happen, and he had been content with that. It had been so much easier knowing that it was impossible. It was unbearable, what had happened last night. Being certain that it would never happen again made it so much worse than never knowing.

He was finally finished. His hand slid over the impossibly soft fur of one of the black rabbits that inhabited the last cage. He closed his eyes and breathed deep as he ran a thumb along one of its strange ears. He wished he had a dog right now. He had always wanted a dog to run and play and wrestle with. To make him forget everything.

The sound of a cage door closing behind him interrupted his reverie. He gave the rabbit a last pat on the head and locked the door of the cage. He braced himself and turned to face Malfoy.

He was looking for something to wipe his hands off with, distinctly irritated. His hair was slightly disheveled--probably due to the lemur--and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up, which made him look much less aristocratic. Ron liked the way it looked. He sometimes forgot that Malfoy wasn’t just some spoiled nancy boy who ran to his mum and dad whenever something was wrong anymore. The arms beneath the impeccably-pressed shirt were lean but toned: a Seeker’s arms.

Then he noticed it. Ron spent so much time trying to forget and ignore everything he’d been through that it made him forget everything other people had been through as well. The Dark Mark was no longer dark, but it was there. If it was still there now, it would be there forever. Like Harry’s scar, it would be there until they died and after.

He felt pity for Malfoy for the second time. But then he felt something else. There was something very strangely and perversely attractive about that mark, faded and pink on pale skin. It was part of why Ron had always been drawn to Malfoy: he was on the other side. It was trite, wanting someone with darkness, someone enigmatic and powerful and untouchable, but it was inescapable.

Of course, it would be impossible for Malfoy not to be attractive, Dark Mark or no. Ron, his thoughts ever shifting, didn’t allow his mind to linger on that detail, choosing instead to admire the rest of him. His eyes flitted up the other boy’s body, and he remembered again how it had felt to trap one of those well-formed arms between their bodies. He felt the heat rise in his cheeks and cursed himself inwardly.

Predictably, Malfoy chose that moment to turn toward him and look up. The snarl of annoyance very suddenly shifted into an expression of utter smugness as he registered the pink of Ron’s cheeks. This only made Ron blush more fiercely. It wasn’t fair that his skin gave him away!

He waited for the snide remark; for the taunt that was surely on the tip of Malfoy’s tongue. But it didn’t come. Instead, Malfoy simply gave him a cocky, knowing sort of look, tossed the rag he had been trying to clean his hands with onto the table, and strode out of the room.

*****

As the next few days passed, Ron all but convinced himself that the kiss had never happened. Malfoy was certainly acting as if that were the case. Every day after lessons he showed up ten or fifteen minutes late, barely acknowledged Ron’s presence, and got to work without comment. There wasn’t even any attempt to embarrass, insult, or anger Ron. Just silence--a horrible, excruciating silence (except for the sounds of the animals) that made it impossible for Ron not to spend every second wondering what Malfoy was up to or if he was even up to anything at all. Every muscle within him was braced for a verbal or physical blow, but none came. It was absolutely unbearable.

But Ron soon realized that he could in fact bear it, and that he would have to endure much more. At the two week mark, Ron’s stomach would flutter unpleasantly when he so much as thought about Malfoy, and sunk whenever he saw him. It would have been difficult enough if he only had to see the other boy in lessons and in the Great Hall and corridors, but to have to spend an hour with him in that room every day--It was physically painful.

The days crawled by and blended together. Each detention was like every other: arrive on time, take out the cleaning supplies, wait for Malfoy to arrive late, move anticlockwise from cage to cage in agonizing silence, clean up, leave. If it weren’t for Hermione bossing him around, Ron suspected that his marks would have suffered. Most of his mind was so consumed by unwanted thoughts and sexual frustration that the fact that he needed to pass his classes had difficulty sticking in his head.

He lasted three weeks.

Another Monday afternoon came. Malfoy was late, as usual. Ron wondered for the hundredth time how long McGonagall would require them to serve their daily detention. She had never specified a time frame, and Ron began to fear that he would be forced to endure an hour in that room with Malfoy every day until they left school.

Ron was on his third cage when Malfoy strode into the room, whistling merrily. The Slytherin had no right to be so cheerful--so apparently unaffected!

He gritted his teeth as he scrubbed down the fourth cage. No, he wouldn’t say anything. By the time he’d reached the sixth, he was biting his lip. By the ninth, he was certain he’d bruised it and had to stop.

The final cage was clean. He took out each animal’s food, doling out their dinners in turn. Nearly done. Nearly free.

Behind him, Malfoy began to whistle again. A jaunty tune. It mocked Ron.

That was it.

He closed the final door as calmly as he could manage. He walked over to Malfoy, as close as he could get without alarming him.

Then he took the shoulder of the other boy’s white shirt in his hand and hauled him toward the wall. Malfoy made a sound of angry protest, but Ron ignored it.

A rough shove, and Malfoy’s back hit stone. Ron’s hand still gripped his shirt tightly, and the blond looked distinctly annoyed. Ron wasn’t quite certain what he wanted to do, but he knew he had to do something. Something had to give; something had to change.

He was breathing hard from sheer anger and frustration. Malfoy simply stood with his back braced against the wall as if he were there completely of his own will and could leave whenever he chose.

“Go on,” he said with a taunting smile.

If Malfoy hadn’t said anything, Ron might have been able to do it. Unfortunately, he had a deeply rooted inclination never to do what Malfoy told him to. He practically shook with frustration now, because everything within him apart from that stubborn inclination was screaming at him to follow the order.

But he couldn’t do it. He wanted to, so very badly. He wanted nothing more than to grab the other boy by the collar and snog that smile right off his face with all of the hunger that had been devouring him for weeks. He wanted to bite that lower lip until it bruised like Ron’s had, until it bled. But for some horrible, infuriating reason, he couldn’t move. He was absolutely frozen.

Malfoy leaned his face toward Ron’s, his eyes searching Ron’s almost academically. Ron held his breath and gritted his teeth again.

Then those lips he wanted to kiss, to hurt, were at his ear. Hot breath, once, twice.

“You haven’t got the stones.”

Effortlessly, the blond brushed Ron’s hand off of his shoulder and moved away. It was only when a low chuckle was followed by the shutting of the door that Ron drew breath again.


Chapter Four: Insult to Injury

Blessedly, Quidditch practices began the following week. Ron made Keeper surprisingly easily, and it was bliss to be back on a broomstick again. With the wind in his ears his mind could clear, if only for the duration of a practice. For one day a week he didn’t mind his detention at all, because he knew that he had practice to look forward to. On those days it was he who was whistling merrily.

The first match of the season was Gryffindor versus Slytherin. This made practices all the more enjoyable for Ron, who decided that beating Slytherin at Quidditch would make his daily detentions quite enjoyable.

The match was held on an uncharacteristically clear autumn day, and the Gryffindor team were in high spirits. They couldn’t have asked for better conditions. Harry had proven more than once that he had the sharpest eyes of any of the Seekers on the respective teams, and his Firebolt, though a few years old, was still one of the fastest models available.

By twenty minutes into the game, Gryffindor had scored four goals and Slytherin only one. It seemed as if this match was a sure thing. Ron’s eyes flitted left and right, watching the action of the match intently. Gryffindor had the quaffle and Ginny was speeding toward the other end of the pitch. The Slytherin Keeper was shifting from side to side, trying to discern which ring she was aiming for.

Suddenly, Malfoy came streaming toward Ron and made a dangerously tight loop around the Gryffindor goal posts. He must have seen the snitch! Ron turned his head to see if Harry was on Malfoy’s tail, and was blindsided by a staggering blow to the head. Bloody bludger, he thought irritably, and then everything went black.

*****

When he awoke, he was lying on the pitch and Harry was standing over him with a half-worried, half-furious look on his face. That could only mean one thing: they’d lost.

“Wha’ happened?” Ron asked groggily.

He tried to sit up, then groaned as he was assaulted by pain and dizziness. He forced down the urge to wretch. Thankfully, Madam Pomfrey arrived a moment later and handed him some sort of predictably disgusting-tasting potion. He gulped it down as quickly as he could, and after he took a few steady breaths, all that remained was a bit of fuzzy-headedness.

“Mind you get yourself back to the castle straight away and lie down, or I’ll keep you in the hospital wing overnight,” she warned before heading back herself. Ron was quite willing to obey. As soon as he could get out of his Quidditch gear he’d welcome a nice nap. There would be no celebration in the Gryffindor common room today, anyway.

It was just like Malfoy to choose that exact moment to saunter over to them with his best smug smirk plastered across his face.

“If I were you, Potter, I’d consider getting a new Keeper. This one looks damaged.”

Ron was about to get to his feet, but Ginny shoved him back down the shoulder and gave him a warning look.

“Typical Slytherin,” Harry spat contemptuously. “You couldn’t win if you actually played a clean match.”

“Not very graceful losers, are you?” Malfoy sneered.

“Better than a filthy cheating winner,” Ginny said with a glare.

Malfoy chuckled derisively. “Looks like you could do with something filthy right about now, Weaslette.”

Harry practically snarled and grabbed Ginny’s hand. “Come on, Ron. It’s nearly time for dinner anyway.”

Ron waved Harry off. “It’s all right. Gotta get cleaned up.” Harry and Ginny had both stripped off their gear and each seemed eager for a hot bath. He’d like one as well, but it would take him a minute to be steady enough to walk to the locker room. Keeper gear was the trickiest to take off, and it was a pain to walk very far in.

“Go on, I’ll catch you up.”

Harry nodded, and after he and Ginny had each given Malfoy a last fierce glare, they made their way off the pitch.

Ron looked up at Malfoy angrily, and the blond gave him an even more superior look than usual.

“How’d you do it, then?” Ron asked as he stumbled to his feet.

Malfoy shrugged. “Potter played the hero, as usual.”

Oh. Ron could guess what happened: he had probably been knocked off his broom by the bludger, and Harry had swooped in to save him. Malfoy, being Malfoy, likely used the diversion to catch the snitch before Harry could get back to the game.

As soon as he’d gotten to see the look of annoyance on Ron’s face, Malfoy strutted away with his broomstick slung over his shoulder, leaving Ron holding his head to fight off some of the residual dizziness.

By the time he got to the locker room, most of his symptoms had passed. His skull still smarted a bit because the potion wasn’t a cure-all, but generally he felt much better. He certainly wasn’t the first player to suffer a serious blow to the head thanks to a bludger, and he wouldn’t be the last.

As annoyed as he was with Harry for letting Malfoy get the snitch, he was grateful that his friend had caught him. If his fall hadn’t been broken, some of his bones certainly would’ve.

Ron felt a pang of guilt in his chest. Though his team often assured him that he’d become an excellent Keeper, he still felt the insecurities that had plagued him during the beginning of sixth year from time to time. There were moments, especially when he was most nervous, that he convinced himself he was absolute rubbish at the game. Things like the way Malfoy had shamed him today didn’t help that feeling.

He pulled off his Quidditch robes and began unfastening the buckles on his wrist guards. He dropped them on the ground and stretched his forearms, then moved on to his chest padding.

Cheerful whistling, all too familiar to Ron, came from behind him. He rolled his eyes as Malfoy strode into the room from the door that linked the adjoining locker rooms. He set his broom against the wall, and put a sack he was carrying--presumably containing his gear--on the ground next to it.

Ron resolutely ignored him, and instead unfastened his shin guards. He made a face as his hands came away muddy. Quidditch was always messy, but lying unconscious on the pitch certainly didn’t help that.

“How’s the head, Weasley?” Malfoy drawled.

Ron bristled.

“Worse, now you’re here.”

He didn’t have the patience to deal with Malfoy rubbing Gryffindor’s defeat in his face right now, nor the energy. He just wanted his head to clear completely so he could get back to the castle for a bath and a hot meal. But of course, that was too much to ask for.

“Is that any way to speak to someone who’s only concerned for your well-being? Honestly, I’m hurt.”

“You’ll be hurting in a minute,” Ron muttered as he threw his last piece of gear to the ground, leaving him in trousers, a jumper, and muddy boots.

“Forgive me if I’m not terribly intimidated by a Keeper who can’t even see a ball coming directly at him.”

Something inside Ron snapped. He turned around, grabbed Malfoy by his jumper, and threw him down on the bench he had just been sitting on.

It was clear that Malfoy had gotten the wind knocked out of him. It took him a moment to recover, but a great inhalation and a cough later he was looking up at Ron smugly.

This, of course, only infuriated Ron further. He thought about bloodying up Malfoy’s face until he couldn’t smirk anymore, but he didn’t want to give him any further satisfaction from seeing how much of an effect he’d had on Ron. It was better to leave it and go take his bath.

Having thought that he’d made his point, Ron released Malfoy and moved to the end of the bench to give him one last glare. This turned out to be a mistake. Malfoy abruptly sat up on the bench and hauled Ron back toward it.

Ron tried to recover his balance, but couldn’t help falling forward. He landed on top of Malfoy with a force that caused both of them to grunt in pain. Ron banged his knee on the side of the bench in the process, and it seemed as if Malfoy hadn’t fared much better.

The fall had Ron feeling from the impact and his head was swimming. Clearly he wasn’t fit for sudden movements quite yet. He was now sprawled awkwardly on top of Malfoy, chest-to-chest, and it would be a moment before he could get up. Malfoy wasn’t moving or speaking, and Ron fervently hoped that one of his limbs had connected with him in a very painful way that had rendered him momentarily speechless and/or paralyzed.

He lay there for a moment, trying to even out his breathing and stay still long enough for the room to stop spinning. The sensation in his head was disorienting enough that he hardly considered the fact that he was in closer proximity to Malfoy than he’d ever been--Hell, he was closer than he’d been with any boy except perhaps when wrestling with his brothers as a child.

Ron belatedly realized that his face had fallen into the crook of Malfoy’s neck when he had become too dizzy to hold it up. He also hadn’t noticed until this point that his efforts to calm his breathing were causing him to pant against the skin there.

His body tensed and he struggled to lift himself up on his forearms. It was difficult to breathe properly with his chest pressed against Malfoy’s anyway. But his breath halted momentarily anyway when he felt something hard pressed against his hip.

For a moment he was puzzled, then his face grew hot with embarrassment at not immediately recognizing what was going on. Then the flush spread as he felt his own body responding. An adrenaline-fueled giddiness rushed through him, like those he got in the heat of an exciting Quidditch match.

Ron shifted his hips slightly to get more comfortable. Malfoy’s eyes closed quite abruptly and his breath caught. Emboldened, Ron brought his face back to Malfoy’s neck and puffed a hot breath against it experimentally. A shiver ran through the other boy. Ron smiled victoriously.

That giddy feeling in his stomach intensified. It made him confident, like doing well in a match did. He wouldn’t back down this time. It was his turn.

He wet his lips with his tongue and slid them along the skin of Malfoy’s neck. The muscles there tensed and relaxed. Soon Ron was licking along the trail his lips had traced. He could taste the salt of dried sweat, but it wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, he was surprised to find that he enjoyed it.

A low sound reverberated against Ron’s chest and Malfoy angled his head to the side so that Ron could reach more of his neck. This urged him on, and soon he was nibbling at the skin, alternating licks and rough versions of kisses with nips. Now it was Malfoy who was panting instead of Ron.

Ron wanted more. He pressed his teeth into the flesh beneath them and his lips followed. He wanted to bruise, to mark the skin there. When he considered that maybe he should ease up a bit, Malfoy actually emitted a strangled sort of moan. A shiver of pleasure ran through Ron’s body.

But he should’ve known that he wouldn’t have the upper hand for long. Quite suddenly, Malfoy turned his head and took the edge of Ron’s ear between his teeth. He bit down and Ron yelped in pain. This drew an amused sound from Malfoy, and he used Ron’s momentary surprise to roll them both off of the bench.

They landed on the locker room floor, and Ron absorbed most of the impact this time. He was going to have more bruises the next day than any Quidditch game had ever given him. He looked up to find Malfoy straddling his hips and looking very smug, as if hitting the floor had not hurt him in the slightest.

“My head,” Ron groaned in protest, as everything spun and he momentarily saw two Malfoys smirking down at him. The blond said nothing.

Ron swore under his breath and tried to sit up, but Malfoy slammed him back down by his shoulders. He grunted as his already sore back hit the ground again. His body ached from the punishment he was receiving, and yet he was hard against Malfoy’s hip. He couldn’t help it--the roughness excited him, even though he couldn’t quite understand why.

Then Malfoy did exactly what Ron wanted him to do in that moment. He bent down and then his mouth was at Ron’s neck and he was attacking with teeth and tongue and lip and Ron’s head was swimming for a completely different reason.

At this rate they’d have matching marks on their necks the next day. Ron had never been more grateful for the fact that the Hogwarts uniform had a collared shirt, and he desperately hoped that it would be sufficient to cover the bruise that was no doubt forming beneath Malfoy’s teeth. It was hard, however, to focus on consequences when the hot mouth against his skin was causing him to shiver and he was having a hard time lying still.

He chided himself mentally as a moan escaped him, and he had to bite his lip to salvage what was left of his pride. He was fighting a losing battle.

But Ron wasn’t ready to lose just yet. He grabbed the back of Malfoy’s hair by the roots and yanked him away from his neck. Before the blond could react, Ron pulled him in for a rough kiss.

As Malfoy began to respond, pride surged within Ron, because he was no longer the only one emitting sounds of pleasure. They were both panting between kisses, and when Ron pulled Malfoy’s lower lip between his teeth, he was rewarded with a low groan. Every time he made Malfoy’s composure falter even for a moment, he felt a sense of victory. The power was intoxicating.

Soon he realized that he was moving his hips against Malfoy’s urgently, and incredibly, the other boy was reciprocating. His skin felt hot and the air around them felt colder and he couldn’t stop kissing Malfoy now if he’d wanted to.

The noises Malfoy was makings began to sound frantic and frustrated, and Ron understood and empathized completely. He wanted more. The logistics of how to get it escaped him at the moment, but still he wanted so much more. The fact that Malfoy clearly wanted it too only increased the longing that threatened to consume him.

“Can’t,” Malfoy said in a strained voice as he moved his mouth back to Ron’s neck.

Ron didn’t know what he meant, and the tongue that slid across his already bruised flesh did nothing to clear his head.

“Can’t what?” he panted.

“Not here,” was Malfoy’s terse explanation.

Ron suddenly understood, and a horrible feeling of disappointment sunk deep in his stomach. Malfoy was right: they were in the Quidditch locker room. Even if everyone else had probably gone up to the castle, it was a miracle that they hadn’t been caught. His body railed against the logic that was forcing him to accept that this had to end now.

It felt as if Malfoy had to use great physical force to tear himself away, but he finally succeeded in extricating himself from Ron’s grasp and stumbled to his feet. He looked a mess, and Ron felt as bad or worse. The blond sported a red mark on his neck and a bruised lip, and from the way he was wincing as he moved away, it seemed as if he had suffered as many bruises as Ron had during all of the shoving and falling.

It was lucky they had Quidditch as an excuse for being sore, but magic would still be needed to conceal the marks on lips and neck, and Ron didn’t have the faintest idea which spells to cast. Malfoy slid his thumb over his injured lip and seemed to be having the same thought. He went over to his sack of gear and pulled out his wand.

Ron couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy as Malfoy cast the spell nonverbally. In a moment the marks had faded considerably. The other boy’s spellwork had always been a source of envy for Ron. Malfoy wasn’t nearly as good as Hermione, but he was certainly better than Ron.

He hoped for a moment that perhaps Malfoy would cast the spell for him as well, but he ought to have known better. The blond looked at him for a moment, taking in Ron’s disheveled state. Then he smirked, grabbed his things, and left the locker room before Ron could utter a word of protest.

Git.


Chapter Five: Lock and Key

It had been nearly a week since the match, and as soon as Malfoy had left the locker room, he’d gone right back to treating Ron as if nothing had happened. It was one thing to pretend the kiss hadn’t occurred, but their time in the locker room was another matter entirely. What happened there was something Malfoy could never make Ron doubt, and he was growing exceedingly frustrated with the pretense.

They were nearing the end of their Friday afternoon detention when Ron realized he’d reached his breaking point. The tense silence that had characterized their interactions all week was driving him mad. He shut each cage door more forcefully, causing the sounds of animal protest to grow louder as the afternoon wore on.

He felt guilty as soon as he slammed the door to the rabbits’ cage and they started, but his anger didn’t abate. He spun around and threw his rags and other supplies on the table.

Malfoy turned around and smirked.

“What’s the matter, Weasley? Had a spat with your girlfriend?”

He moved to the table and reached for a scrubbing brush, and Ron caught his wrist and gripped it hard.

“She’s not--” He fixed Malfoy with a warning look. “--my girlfriend.”

“Get your hands off--” Malfoy’s protestation was cut short and turned into a hiss of pain as Ron tightened his grip.

“Shut it,” he growled, and caught hold of Malfoy’s robes at the neck with his free hand. Malfoy clutched at Ron’s fingers in an attempt to break his hold, but Ron slammed him back against the door while maintaining his grip.

He was sick of it. Sick of all the doubt and tension and uncontrollable need. Sick of Malfoy’s ability to look completely unaffected now, even though he’d been wonderfully out of control after the match. It was as if he were two different people, and Ron infinitely preferred the latter. He’d make that Malfoy return.

Ron had so firm a grip on Malfoy’s robes that the Slytherin was having difficulty breathing. He took advantage of this and caught Malfoy’s mouth mid-gasp, giving his tongue an opportunity. Malfoy struggled against Ron with his hands and arms, but his mouth was remarkably still. He wasn’t encouraging the kiss, but he wasn’t fighting it either.

A moment later, however, the blond tore his mouth away and began coughing shallowly. Ron relented and loosened his grip on Malfoy’s robes, allowing him to catch his breath. Once he had, he looked up at Ron with a fierce glare.

He shoved his arms against Ron’s chest, trying to throw him off, but Ron moved his hands to Malfoy’s shoulders and pinned him to the door again, rather forcefully.

“No,” he said firmly, and Malfoy coughed again a few times before recovering. He tried to shove Ron off again, but was unsuccessful. He reached for his wand, but Ron caught his wrist.

“No,” Ron repeated, and was rewarded with a wince as he twisted Malfoy’s wrist.

Malfoy opened his mouth to protest, but Ron cut him off.

No.”

Then something strange and unexpected happened. Malfoy stopped struggling. His muscles slowly untensed beneath Ron’s hands, and he rested his weight against the door. He was looking determinedly to the right of Ron rather than at him.

Intrigued and confident now, Ron caught Malfoy’s jaw and turned his head so that he was forced to look at Ron. There it was: that look in those grey eyes that Ron had seen after the Quidditch match. It was enough. Ron grinned in victory and released his hold before stepping away altogether.

Malfoy staggered as if dazed, and as soon as he was just enough out of the way, Ron opened the door and left. He could stand the tension now. It was bearable, as long as Malfoy was suffering too.

*****

Ron found, much to his pleasure, that turning the tables on Malfoy seemed to have made the other boy far less cautious, patient, and confident. He was certain that he could feel Malfoy looking over at him in lessons and during their detentions every once in a while, even though whenever he turned around, the blond was intently concentrating on his work.

It was Ron who could act as if he were unaffected now. Knowing that Malfoy was suffering as well was worth it. He wanted to wait and see if he could make Malfoy give in. He would make himself be patient and see what happened.

It didn’t take long. Fewer than two weeks later, his wait was over. He was walking back to Gryffindor Tower after supper alone. Hermione had gone to the library, and Harry was spending the evening with Ginny, as he often did these days. Ron figured he’d head up to the tower and see what he could make of his transfiguration homework. He didn’t relish the idea, but he needed something to do with his time, and he didn’t fancy sitting in the library with Hermione at the moment. It was difficult to think when it was so quiet!

The Slytherin was bloody sneaky when he wanted to be. Ron didn’t even hear him approaching until he was less than a foot away. Then a hand grabbed his upper arm and pulled him into the nearest classroom.

“What--”

But Malfoy didn’t give him the opportunity to ask questions. He tugged Ron down to his level by his arms--Malfoy was shorter than Ron, though not as short as Harry--and kissed him soundly. Lips, tongue, and then teeth accosted Ron’s mouth, and he eagerly reciprocated, fighting to take control of the kiss.

He guided them toward a nearby table, all the while continuing to snog him, and Malfoy awkwardly hopped up on it so that he was sitting at the edge of it. Ron stood between his thighs and grasped the front of his shirt as the kisses grew more heated.

No. They couldn’t risk being caught here. It was even more likely that someone would walk in on them here than in the Quidditch locker rooms. They needed somewhere else, somewhere private.

And idea came to him, and he tore his mouth away from Malfoy’s, gasping for breath.

“Let’s go.”

Malfoy ignored him and moved to lick at Ron’s neck. Ron’s eyes closed for a moment, but then he shook sense back into himself and stepped back.

“Come on,” he said insistently, and finally Malfoy seemed to come to his senses as well, and hurriedly followed Ron to the door. Ron couldn’t help but feel a bit cocky at how eager Malfoy was to continue.

He led Malfoy through the nearby corridors as quickly as he could without arousing suspicion if anyone should happen to pass by. They both attempted to fix their hair and straighten their clothing as well. They were already being reckless as it was.

Ron stopped in front of an intricately-carved door. Malfoy recognized it, then stared at it and refused to look at Ron, who was enjoying the expression of angry irritation spreading across Malfoy’s features.

“I’m a Prefect again,” Ron explained smugly, and didn’t feel the least bit guilty. In his opinion, Malfoy hadn’t deserved to be a Prefect in the first place: he’d always abused his powers anyway. Plus, he liked having an advantage over Malfoy. It helped combat some of those deep-seated insecurities regarding their statuses.

“Lemur,” Ron said at the door, and the door swung open obligingly. He grinned victoriously as he gestured for Malfoy to go in first. It had been Ron’s turn to set the password today, and he had forgotten to inform the other Prefects of the change, which turned out to be very convenient given the circumstances. This was as private a place as they could hope for.

Malfoy stood in the corridor resolutely, obviously fuming but trying not to show it. He was so much fun when he was angry! Ron grabbed Malfoy’s arm and hauled him in, only growing more amused at the blond’s protestations.

The door closed and locked behind them. Malfoy looked around the Prefects’ study with his arms crossed over his chest. Ron casually glanced around, aiming to flaunt the fact that he belonged here and Malfoy didn’t anymore. This was the place where Prefects decided on the schedule for rounds and discussed inter-house events. It was also a private study for those Prefects who preferred it to the library. Ron had never made much use of that privilege, but Hermione of course did very often.

Malfoy was glaring at him now, staying resolutely silent.

“Lighten up,” Ron said, shoving Malfoy’s shoulder playfully.

To his delight, Malfoy took the bait. He lashed out at Ron with his fist, but Ron deftly blocked his arm in a manner that was calculated to appear effortless, and thus anger Malfoy further. Ron could feel Malfoy’s anger and frustration, and it made him feel wonderfully powerful.

Malfoy tried again with his other arm, and Ron caught it round the wrist. When Malfoy moved to free his hand, Ron caught his other wrist. The other boy struggled furiously. This amused Ron, and his smile widened, which in turn made Malfoy try more earnestly to free himself.

Ron backed him up toward one of the room’s sofas, and caught Malfoy unawares. The backs of his legs hit its wooden frame and he was knocked over at the knees to a sitting position. Maintaining his hold on Malfoy’s wrists, Ron kicked the other boy’s feet apart and dropped to his knees between Malfoy’s legs. This brought them near eye level with one another.

Malfoy was trying to use his best glare, but Ron remained amused. He jerked Malfoy’s arms down so that the blond was forced to lean closer, allowing Ron to kiss him with a fervor that expressed the unbearable hunger he’d been grappling with since after the Quidditch match.

It was only moments before Malfoy responded, and as his mouth surrendered to Ron’s, Ron felt his arms relax. Taking this as a sign that the struggling had ceased at least for now, Ron slipped his fingers into the short blond hair at the back of Malfoy’s head and grabbed hold. A sharp inhalation of breath moved the other boy’s lips an inch away from his before they pressed back again with increased zeal.

Malfoy tugged at the front of Ron’s jumper insistently. Half agreeing with the idea that he needed to be shirtless and half too intently involved in the kiss, Ron left the decision up to Malfoy. A hand slipped beneath his shirt and began awkwardly trying to pull it up. Ron jerked away with an involuntary laugh, breaking the kiss. He cursed his unbearably ticklish stomach, but Malfoy just smirked and used the opportunity to haul Ron’s jumper, shirt and all, over his head and free of his arms. It was cast away to some part of the floor and out of Ron’s mind.

Malfoy gazed at Ron’s bare chest with an intrigued sort of excitement. He then braced a hand on Ron’s waist and leaned to kiss and bite a trail from Ron’s collarbone down to his left nipple. The warm tongue slid over flesh that was far too sensitive to bear the stimulation. Ron shuddered convulsively and pulled away. The nerves in his stomach had always been abnormally ticklish, and those in his chest were apparently just as overly alert. He just couldn’t take it.

A small sound of disappointment accompanied Malfoy’s frown and Ron decided to salvage the moment by tugging Malfoy’s annoyingly green oxford shirt up from the bottom. He tried not to think about how many galleons the fine cloth had cost as he unbuttoned it. Malfoy impatiently struggled to help him speed up the process, and with their combined efforts it was soon thrown to the floor as well.

Ron looked over Malfoy’s smooth chest with interest. He reasoned that if Malfoy had tried this on Ron, than it was very likely something that he himself liked. Keeping this in mind, he pulled Malfoy closer to the edge of the sofa by his knees. Supporting the other boy’s lower back with both hands, he leaned to experimentally kiss at the subtly toned stomach.

A twitch in the muscles there, but no laughter. Ron placed another kiss on the smooth skin and felt no response. Curious now, he stuck his tongue out and slid it slowly along the outline of the bottom of Malfoy’s ribcage. A soft sigh followed the movement, and Ron looked up to find that the grey eyes had slid shut.

Ron was fascinated and excited by this new development. He ran his wand hand over Malfoy’s stomach and slid his tongue further up his chest. Blond eyelashes fluttered. He couldn’t wait any longer to see what would happen. He let the tip of his tongue graze over the nipple at the end of his mouth’s trail.

A noise that was nearly a whimper escaped Malfoy’s mouth. Encouraged, Ron pulled the other boy’s hips closer to his and licked more intently at the flesh beneath his tongue. Shivers and shudders pulsed under the fingers splayed across Malfoy’s stomach.

He became suddenly aware of the proximity of their hips. The excitement that was coursing through him pulsed from a pang in the pit of his stomach, and a force that could only be instinct made him push his hips insistently against Malfoy’s until his erection slid against equally hard flesh through what Ron suddenly felt was far too much clothing.

His attention became distracted from Malfoy’s chest and he braced his forehead near the blond’s collarbone as he began to pant softly, trying not to become overwhelmed. He found himself frantically trying to figure out the next step.

Malfoy took the initiative instead, and while Ron pulled his head back up, a hand slid between them and cupped Ron’s cock through his trousers. As Malfoy’s palm rubbed firmly, Ron’s head fell again, his face settling in the crook of Malfoy’s neck as the other boy sat forward to get a better angle for his arm.

Instinct took over again, and Ron pressed his hips toward Malfoy’s surprisingly strong hand, rubbing against his palm urgently, ignoring the awkwardness of the zipper in trousers. His breath was ragged at Malfoy’s neck, and this seemed to encourage him. His fingers moved to unbutton the fly, but when he began to slide the zipper open, Ron felt a rush of fear and pulled away.

He fell backward onto the floor. Malfoy stared at him with a dazed sort of confusion, eyes dark and cheeks pink. Ron shook his head, trying to clear it. His stomach was heavy with apprehension, and he couldn’t understand why. This was exactly what he’d wanted. Not only had he waited far too long to experience something like this in general, but this was with Malfoy: the subject of the vast majority of his fantasies since he’d begun his adolescent fantasizing in the first place.

What was he doing? The question was written on Malfoy’s face. The other boy crawled from the sofa and pressed Ron to the floor with a hand on his bare chest, then settled himself between Ron’s knees. Malfoy leaned to kiss Ron, and while Ron eagerly returned it, he soon found himself trembling nervously from head to toe.

Malfoy broke the kiss and braced himself on his hands so he could look down at Ron. Frustration and curiosity mixed in his eyes, and then his features transformed into an expression of comprehension. He knew, Ron thought as his face flushed with shame. He knew that Ron had never done anything like this before.

The blond cocked his head to the side, a smirk spreading across his lips.

“You’ve never...” A statement, not a question.

Ron determinedly looked away. He could almost feel the self-satisfaction radiating from Malfoy.

The revelation seemed to increase Malfoy’s enthusiasm, and Ron soon felt teeth at his neck and the insistent hand pulling his zipper the rest of the way down. The hand slipped into his trousers and cupped him through his pants. The fabric was so much thinner, and Ron felt suddenly exposed and vulnerable as his breathing and heart rate quickened. He didn’t like it. He had just started to take the upper hand in their interactions, and he was losing it.

His fingers closed around Malfoy’s wrist and pulled his hand away.

“No,” he said in a choked, raspy voice.

But the magic word didn’t work this time. Malfoy pulled his wrist out of Ron’s grasp with little effort. Ron was too nervous to maintain his dominance. The contrast between hot arousal in his veins and cold anxiety in his stomach was making him feel ill, weak.

“Yes,” Malfoy insisted, and he moved so that he was sitting at Ron’s side. Then his hand was back in Ron’s trousers, sliding along his cock through his pants. Ron shivered. He wanted this so badly. He just hated that Malfoy was going to do it to him first, and not the other way round.

Most of that frustration melted away when Malfoy pushed Ron’s trousers and pants down a bit so he could pull his cock free. Ron groaned as Malfoy’s hand gripped his flesh with no barrier. All right, he didn’t care that he wasn’t in control anymore.

Now, Ron was a seasoned wanker. Like any teenaged boy, he’d spent a major percentage of his time fantasizing, and that always led to masturbation. He had assumed that, if he ever got the chance to experience it, another bloke doing it to him wouldn’t feel much different. He could not have been more wrong.

Malfoy’s hand was strong, and he began to move it in a way that gave Ron the impression that he’d had a lot of practice in this area. Ron acknowledged to himself in the back of his mind that he was jealous that Malfoy was clearly experienced, but it was difficult to care when all of that experience was making him feel so good.

The pace was brilliant. It was quick enough to stimulate his nerves, but not so fast as to overwhelm him, and the rhythm was perfectly consistent. His eyes closed in utter pleasure. He began to think that it was too good to be believed, but every time his eyes opened again, Malfoy was watching him intently with that damned smug smirk twisting his lips.

Ron’s body began to grow impatient. He wanted more. Unconsciously at first, he began moving his hips, trying to match Malfoy’s pace and force him to increase it.

“No,” Malfoy said warningly, and stopped for a moment. Fearful that he wouldn’t get what he so desperately needed, Ron forced himself to lie still. He was profoundly relieved when Malfoy’s hand began to move again.

“That’s right,” he said, with self-satisfaction in his voice. “You don’t want me to stop, do you?”

Ron said nothing, trying to ignore Malfoy and focus on how good this felt.

“Do you?” he repeated.

His brain was telling him to just say it so Malfoy would keep going, but his pride wouldn’t let him.

“Answer me,” the blond commanded.

Ron groaned inwardly at the threat. It was no good--he couldn’t bear it if Malfoy stopped again.

“I--” he hesitated.

“Yes?”

“I don’t,” he muttered.

“Speak up,” he said, in an infuriatingly smug tone.

“I said don’t stop!” Ron growled.

“Ginger yob,” Malfoy said with a sneer. “Didn’t your mummy teach you any manners?”

Please,” Ron gritted his teeth against the stream of insults he wanted to let loose, “don’t stop.”

Malfoy chuckled victoriously. “That wasn’t so difficult, was it?”

Ron glared up at him, but the Slytherin git gave him a warning look, so he closed his eyes and breathed deep, trying to focus on the feeling of Malfoy’s hand around his cock. His heart rate and breathing quickened.

“Well?”

What? Ron’s eyes came open. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out what Malfoy was on about. And quite frankly, he was sick of talking.

Well?” Malfoy insisted.

Oh. Right.

“Yes,” he grumbled.

But Malfoy wouldn’t let it go. “Why?”

You bloody well know why, you cocky prig.

Ron gripped the leg of Malfoy’s trousers with his right hand. His eyes squeezed shut again in frustration. Malfoy hadn’t stopped, but he was keeping the pace too slow on purpose.

“It just is,” he ground through clenched teeth.

Malfoy chuckled. “Eloquent as ever, Weasley. But all right.”

The pace finally increased, thank Merlin. An involuntary moan rumbled in Ron’s throat, making Malfoy snicker. Damn him.

“You might want to take notes,” Malfoy said conversationally as Ron’s brain threatened to shut down, “so you can show your girlfriend how to do it later.”

“She’s--” Ron groaned as Malfoy switched the pace abruptly, no doubt just to fuck with him, “--not my g--gah!”

Malfoy leaned down a bit and fixed his eyes on Ron’s in an unsettling manner.

“So,” he said in a tone that Ron found more unsettling than his gaze, “you still haven’t dirtied your blood up with hers, then? Admirable.”

Ron’s grip on Malfoy’s trousers became so tight that his hand hurt, but he kept his mouth shut. Malfoy was trying to bait him. The hatred rose up in Ron, but Malfoy’s hand was unrelenting, and his body was struggling to decide which impulse to obey.

It ultimately decided on lust. However, Ron compromised by giving Malfoy a look of utmost loathing. Malfoy, predictably, only smirked back at him.

But he didn’t stop. At least there was that. Ron could feel himself getting close. He tried to force his anger down and concentrate on how good it felt, because he was afraid he might give Malfoy a reason to stop. It was much, much too late to stop.

Malfoy leaned closer. Ron’s eyes closed again, as much so that he wouldn’t have to see Malfoy’s face as to better enjoy the pleasure.

And it really did feel good. Bloody good. Exceptionally good. Brilliant. This was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Who cared if the stuck-up git was trying to humiliate him? Draco Malfoy had his hand wrapped around Ron’s cock. That was worth putting up with a lot.

Then coherent thoughts were leaving him. His breath was shallow and both his hands clutched the carpet beneath him. The anger was gone completely now.

“Fuck,” Ron said, and then it was followed by a colorful stream of curse words, some of which he hadn’t realized he knew until they left his mouth. He came somewhere between ‘bollocks’ and ‘bugger,’ which, in retrospect, was rather appropriate.

Then, in the most patronizing tone, with the most insufferable expression, Malfoy said,

“Good boy.”

To top it off, he patted Ron on the head.

Ron’s brain was trying very hard to switch back on. The anger was struggling to the top. He just needed a few seconds. He took a few deep, even breaths, and wiped the sweat from his brow. A few seconds.

There. He sat up and shoved Malfoy’s shoulder, causing the other boy to fall flat on his back. It was Ron’s turn to smirk, as he took in the sight of Malfoy’s disheveled state. His hair was a mess, his cheeks and lips were flushed, and his chest was.... Bloody hell, he’d been aiming for his face. Oh well.

Malfoy was looking up at Ron as if the fun had just begun. Good. That would make this even better.

Ron held him to the floor by his shoulder and leaned close, but not close enough that he’d be in contact with that sticky mess.

“You want it too, don’t you?” Ron growled in Malfoy’s ear.

Malfoy hesitated, then nodded ever so slightly.

“What was that?”

“Yes.”

Ron gave him a rough kiss, took Malfoy’s hand in is, and placed it over the conspicuous bulge in the other boy’s trousers.

“Have at it.”

There was a beautiful moment as Ron stood up where Malfoy looked utterly confused, and then, as Ron fastened his trousers and pulled his shirt back on, an expression of frustrated outrage. By the time Malfoy could say a word of protest, however, Ron had closed the door behind him.

Standing in the corridor buttoning his shirt while a stream of muffled curses sounded through the wood of the door, Ron’s mouth broke into a wide grin.


Chapter Six: Low Blows

“No, Ron, you’ve got to stir it seven times before you add the powdered asphodel,” Hermione chided, and Ron rolled his eyes. Harry pretended to be reading his textbook intently, but Ron could see a small smile on his lips.

“All right, I’ve got it,” Ron said impatiently, and set the asphodel down. He really ought to be nicer to Hermione. Without her, he’d have no chance of becoming an Auror. He really was terrible at Potions.

He glanced up at her, intending to apologize, but she was looking over at another table.

“What?” Ron asked, and Harry’s eyes followed Hermione’s.

“He’s staring at us,” she said, and Ron’s stomach sunk.

Malfoy. Ron’s eyes locked with grey ones, and he was assaulted by that trademark smirk. He abruptly looked away.

Harry was glaring daggers at the blond. Sure, Harry had saved Malfoy’s life, and they’d all been grateful for Narcissa Malfoy’s role in the final battle, but there was still no love lost between Harry and Malfoy.

Hermione turned back to Ron. “Why do you think he looks so pleased with himself?”

Ron shrugged, trying to come off as casually as possible. “Still chuffed about Quidditch, I expect.”

“But that was weeks ago,” Hermione said, puzzled.

“Who knows what’s going on in that git’s head?” Harry said, finally turning his eyes back on his book.

Hermione shook her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe that after everything that’s happened he’s still determined to be so awful to everyone.”

“Yeah,” Ron said absently. Hermione seemed about to pursue the point, but Ron was saved by the fact that his potion had apparently turned a bright shade of orange and was frothing over the edges of his cauldron.

“Ron!” Hermione brandished her wand at the cauldron and the foam subsided. “The newts’ eyes come after the wormwood!”

Harry gave him a quizzical look as Ron muttered, “Sorry.”

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh and emptied Ron’s cauldron. “That’s all right. Here, let’s start from the beginning.”

*****

The walk to Hogsmeade in the snow was always a bother, but sometimes it could be pretty. It was nice to spend some time with his friends. They hadn’t had as much of that as he’d like since they returned to school, but that was to be expected. Harry had been understandably preoccupied with Ginny, and Hermione had thrown herself back into her schoolwork, determined to finish strong. And Ron... Well, Ron had a preoccupation of his own.

Harry and Hermione walked on either side of Ron, and Ginny was on Harry’s other side. They were holding hands. Ron felt a pang of guilt in his stomach at an expectant look from Hermione. Sometimes he really hated that he couldn’t just want her. It would make things so much easier. For all of them.

He hated hurting her. Worse, he hated hurting her and not being able to tell her why he was doing it. He had realized afterward that his behavior toward her during their quest for the horcruxes had unfairly encouraged her. He’d only considered that time as a bonding experience with his two best friends, but even a person thicker than himself ought to have known that Hermione didn’t see it that way.

Ron compromised and put an arm about her shoulder in a way that he hoped would come off as brotherly. He really did love her, just not in the way she wanted him to. Poor Hermione.

As they reached the village, Ron noticed Malfoy out of the corner of his eye. He was standing outside Madam Malkin’s, hair nearly as white as the snow around him. Ron turned slightly, and Malfoy locked eyes with him for a split second. They both looked away and Ron walked on with his friends.

When they got to the Three Broomsticks, Ron hesitated at the door. The other three looked back at him inquiringly.

“You go on,” he said. “I want to stop by Honeyduke’s. I’ll meet you in a bit.”

Harry rolled his eyes good-naturedly, no doubt poking fun at Ron’s insatiable fondness for sweets, and Hermione’s eyes lingered on him a second longer before she nodded and followed Harry and Ginny inside.

Ron turned toward Madam Malkin’s as Malfoy disappeared around the corner. Ron cautiously followed, trying to act casually, though it didn’t much matter since hardly anyone lingered in the streets when it was so cold out. Most of the students and professors were inside shopping or having a drink.

He caught up with Malfoy behind the shop. The blond said nothing. In fact, he hardly looked at Ron. But then he grabbed him by the wrist without warning, and the next thing Ron knew he was stumbling to his knees on a very expensive-looking silk carpet and trying not to be sick on it. It was always extremely disorienting to be taken for side-along Apparition without knowing where you’re going or even that you’re going at all.

Worse, Ron hadn’t been able to Apparate except in extreme circumstances since he’d been splinched, and the process had always left him reeling since then. It wasn’t worth it, he’d decided, to risk that pain again, even though it was unlikely that he would. Thinking of it--the agony, the blood--still caused him to experience a visceral and involuntary fear. He found himself looking down at his robes and running his hands over his limbs and face, checking for blood. He shuddered and emitted a small sigh of relief when he found none.

Malfoy, in true Malfoy form, was standing quite steadily next to him looking completely unfazed. Ron suddenly felt very foolish, and tried to pretend that he had only been brushing off his robes as he stood. His embarrassment was then completely knocked out of him when Malfoy backed him up against the nearest wall and kissed him very roughly. Ron was torn between wanting to reciprocate and trying to figure out where in Merlin’s name they were.

So during the disorienting process of pulling off their warm winter cloaks and other assorted winter accoutrements while trying to maintain contact between their lips, Ron started gathering what evidence he could. The carpet was his first clue. He couldn’t see the wall behind him, but it felt like it was covered with a tapestry. What little he could glimpse of the other walls between kisses looked like other tapestries and large portraits. The ceiling was high, and there were large windows along one wall, through which winter light shone.

Ron’s stomach suddenly turned cold and heavy with realization. He was in Malfoy Manor. He had only been here once before, and he had wanted never to return. He had suppressed many of the memories from this place, for good reason. This was the second of two horrible recollections from the time in his life he had tried very hard to forget that had cropped up within five minutes, and it was a lot to handle.

But Malfoy was using the fact that Ron was momentarily distracted to move him toward a large four-poster bed. No, Ron thought, I don’t want to be here. Not where all of that had happened. Not where Bellatrix Lestrange had--not where they had been--and Malfoy had been there. He had been there for all of it. How could he stand it if Ron couldn’t?

He was shoved down onto the bed so forcefully that he grunted with the impact. He was too preoccupied to try to take control. Malfoy was straddling him now, trying to provoke him into fighting back. Hands were tugging at his heavy jumper, pulling it awkwardly up over his head and off him, leaving him in his tee shirt. Then teeth and tongue were at his neck.

This was Malfoy’s home, Ron realized. Even after the war, he apparently still lived here. The cold feeling in Ron’s stomach intensified. Voldemort had been in this house. The Death Eaters had made it their headquarters. Ron thought he could almost smell that scent of death and dark magic that had lingered in the rooms of this house; on the robes of Voldemort’s followers.

He was jarred from his thoughts by a sharp bite to his shoulder. He exclaimed in pain and looked up to find Malfoy glaring down at him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ron asked.

“I should ask you the same question,” Malfoy said irritably. He was clearly not pleased with Ron’s lack of participation. Once he had Ron’s attention, however, Malfoy continued trying to provoke him. He grabbed Ron’s wrists and pinned him to the bed.

It was enough to wake up Ron’s instincts for the moment. He twined his fingers with Malfoy’s and gripped his hands tight. Then he summoned his strength and heaved to the right, rolling them over so that he straddled Malfoy instead. This seemed to be what the other boy wanted, as a slightly playful grin flashed on his face before he resumed his mock struggle for power. He arched his hips up into Ron’s and Ron’s eyes closed in pleasure.

Malfoy attempted to shove upward enough to reach Ron’s lips or neck, and Ron dipped his head obligingly for a kiss. He was met with a muffled sound of approval before he pulled away reluctantly and shook his head. He couldn’t just ignore it.

“I--” he looked away for a moment. “How can you stand to be here?”

After he took a moment to process what Ron was talking about, Malfoy froze. They had never discussed this. They had never come close to discussing this. It was as if there was an unspoken agreement not to, and Ron had broken it.

But the other boy seemed determined to continue ignoring the issue, and in a moment he began sliding his teeth along Ron’s collarbone, causing him to shiver. But Ron pulled away more insistently this time and locked eyes with Malfoy, unable to continue without an answer.

“How?”

Malfoy’s cheeks reddened with anger, and his answer was low and rough: “It’s better than Azkaban.”

Ron did a double-take, then couldn’t help but laugh despite his distress. “Azkaban? Come off it.”

“Yes, Azkaban, you ignorant bender!” Malfoy snarled.

Ron felt the heat rise in his own cheeks and cursed himself and his stupid skin and his stupid hair and how stupid Malfoy thought he was.

“What are you on about?”

“Do you think I would have come back to that pitiful excuse for a school if I’d had a choice?”

“I thought--”

“You thought what? That I’d finish school so I could get some bloody Ministry job? In case you hadn’t noticed, my family haven’t had to work in centuries.”

“I--”

“It was this or Azkaban,” Malfoy repeated bitterly. “At least the food’s better at Hogwarts.”

Ron looked down at the face contorted by anger and was rendered speechless. Azkaban. Malfoy had been a Death Eater. No matter how young he was or what he had done in the end, there was no way he could’ve escaped some sort of sentence. Ron hadn’t even thought--Yes, that was the problem. He hadn’t thought at all. Hot shame coursed through him.

He opened his mouth to speak.

“Shut it,” Malfoy said sharply. He struggled out from beneath Ron and crawled off the bed.

“I’m--” Ron began. “I didn’t know.”

“You don’t know much, do you?” Malfoy said coldly, facing away from Ron and running his fingers through his hair.

It was said with a searing venom and ice all at once. Ron sat frozen on the bed.

The blond moved to the door, wrenched it open, and stormed out of the room.

It would be better, Ron thought, just to leave. But his legs carried him out the door after Malfoy. By the time he was able to see down the hallway, Malfoy had retreated into another room. Ron reached it just in time to have the doors--for there were two--slammed in his face.

Two doors. A master suite. Ron felt sick. It was his parents’ room. He suddenly felt as if he were intruding on something very private. Unwilling to knock or enter, he sank down against the wall and put his head in his hands. He hated that he cared. He hated that he couldn’t just leave. It was jarring to think about what Malfoy must be going through: his parents were in Azkaban, and if he stepped out of line he could end up there too.

It felt as if Ron sat there for an hour. Perhaps he had by the time one of the doors swung slowly open. Malfoy hesitated next to Ron for a moment, then made his way back down the hall to his own room. Ron got up and followed. He closed the door behind him.

“Why haven’t you left?” Malfoy said quietly.

Ron shrugged. He didn’t answer immediately because he himself didn’t quite know why. All he knew was that he had caused this, and he wanted to fix it.

“Do you want me to?”

Now it was Malfoy who didn’t answer.

Ron walked toward him hesitantly, wary of Malfoy’s unpredictability, until he stood before him. Malfoy was determinedly looking away.

Ron leaned to kiss Malfoy’s jaw, moving slowly down to beneath his ear, then to his neck. His path was then obstructed by the collar of Malfoy’s shirt--Malfoy predictably always wore collared shirts, even on the weekends. At least there was no tie. He began unbuttoning the shirt, impatiently biting at the skin beneath his lips. Malfoy made no noise, but he leaned into Ron’s teeth ever so slightly.

When he’d conquered the last button, Ron pushed the shirt from Malfoy’s shoulders and it fell to the silk-carpeted floor. Next, he pulled the soft undershirt Malfoy wore up over his head, ruffling his hair to Ron’s satisfaction. He never tired of messing up the meticulously-arranged locks. Now only clad in his trousers, Malfoy shivered. Ron backed him up toward the fire as he continued his attentions to his neck, now moving toward his shoulder and collarbone.

Malfoy’s hands moved to Ron’s fly and unbuttoned and unzipped it deftly. Ron expected a hand to slide into his trousers, and was pleased with this thought, but instead Malfoy tugged his trousers and pants down--not all the way, just enough in the front to free Ron’s cock, which appreciated the metaphorical breathing room. He found the decision a little strange until Malfoy dropped to his knees in front of him.

The moment Malfoy took Ron’s cock into his mouth, Ron nearly lost his balance. He recovered it by grabbing hold of the hair at the back of Malfoy’s head, and the blond groaned and pulled Ron in deeper. Apparently he liked that. Ron certainly did.

He kept a firm grip on Malfoy’s hair as the blond established a rhythm, working his mouth forward and back around Ron’s cock, occasionally sliding his tongue along the underside or grazing his teeth against Ron’s skin. When he did so, Ron would twitch reflexively and his eyelids would flutter shut. A bloke could really get used to this.

Ron was soon panting with pleasure and moving his hips in time with Malfoy’s mouth, honestly impressed at the other boy’s ability to handle the power of his thrusts without choking. This made a part of his mind wonder once again how much experience Malfoy had with other wizards. Not that he wasn’t grateful for how good he was, but it did make Ron a bit insecure at times.

All right, he didn’t care. This was good. Bloody good, fucking good. The better it felt, the tighter he gripped Malfoy’s hair, and the tighter he gripped, the more enthusiastically Malfoy worked his mouth around him. Ron began to worry that he was tugging the blond hair too tightly and would hurt Malfoy, but the other boy really seemed to be enjoying it, and Ron loved having that kind of physical control.

Malfoy’s mouth was so hot and slick around him, and his tongue teased trails along the underside of his cock. Ron knew already that he could do this every day for the rest of his life and never get sick of it. He wanted to scream obscenities. He wanted to tell Malfoy how good it felt. His breath became panting and it took physical effort to keep his voice still. He didn’t want to give Malfoy the satisfaction this time.

Soon he couldn’t take any more. It was as if Malfoy was bent on making him break his resolution not to make a sound. With one last gasp and one last thrust, he came hard into Malfoy’s mouth. He afforded the blond one loud,

“Fuck!”

as a reward for his hard work, and felt his knees grow weak. He sunk down to Malfoy’s level on the carpet and nearly groaned as the other boy swallowed and wiped the saliva from his mouth--Ron surmised that getting his cock that slick required quite a bit of it--with the back of his hand. Something about that was erotic.

Ron reached for Malfoy’s trousers, but Malfoy moved away. He shook his head wordlessly and went to sit at the edge of his unnecessarily large bed. Ron stood and moved toward him, but Malfoy shook his head again and looked away. Ron was confused. He could tell that Malfoy was more than aroused, but he wouldn’t let Ron return the favor?

He pulled up his pants and fastened his trousers, all the while looking perplexedly at Malfoy. The blond was staring at the floor, apparently deep in thought. Ron found this very unsettling.

“Last chance,” Ron said with a playful tone that he hoped would lighten the mood.

It didn’t work. Malfoy glanced up for a moment, gave Ron a strange look, then fixed his gaze back on the floor.

“We should get back,” Ron said.

Malfoy swallowed thickly. “Go on, then.”

He wanted to be alone, apparently. Ron nodded, even though Malfoy probably couldn’t see it. He found his jumper and pulled it on, then his winter cloak and scarf. Malfoy was eerily silent throughout the process.

Deciding that there was nothing more he could do here, Ron pulled his wand from within his cloak and took a deep breath, bracing himself for the hated sensation of Apparition. The last thing he saw was Malfoy sitting motionless on the edge of his bed, staring resolutely at the floor. Then a loud crack, a rush of cold air, and the familiar nausea. It was time to go find Harry, Hermione, and Ginny.

It wasn’t until the next morning at breakfast that Ron saw Malfoy again. The first thought that entered his head was how strangely the blond looked with dark circles under his grey eyes.

Chapter Seven: A Slippery Slope

Ron saw very little of Malfoy outside of lessons during the next month. End-of-term exams were upon them, and Hermione had him on a brutal revising schedule. His sorely abused brain could hardly think of anything else when it was so full of information, and as soon as exams were over he very gratefully boarded the Hogwarts Express with Harry and Hermione and headed home.

However, spending the Christmas holidays at home affected Ron far more than he’d realized it could. His life hadn’t felt like anything close to ‘normal’ in nearly two years, and he’d clung to his return to Hogwarts as his only means of dealing with what had happened to him, to all of them.

There was an unspoken agreement among everyone not to dwell on the past. Wounds were still fresh, and they all bore scars, not only in their flesh. But unlike the others, Ron couldn’t just choose not to focus on what he’d been through: it was all or nothing. If he let those memories in, they threatened to overwhelm him. Like everything else in his life that he couldn’t change, he found it was easiest to shove them as far back in his mind as he could.

So being at home with his family and Harry (Hermione was with her parents) for the holidays created a chaotic mixture of emotions within him. Percy had come back to them, but Fleur now sat next to George at the table where there would have otherwise been a conspicuously empty chair. Bill’s face had done all of the healing it was going to do, and he finally looked mostly like himself again. Mum cheerily remarked that the scars made him look ruggedly masculine.

Ron loved his family. Everyone he cared about was there together except Hermione. Harry was essentially another Weasley brother now, and if Fleur’s gossip could be believed, he might soon be so in the eyes of Wizarding law. The looks he and Ginny gave one another whenever they thought no one else was watching certainly supported the idea.

But it hurt, he found, to be there, where some things felt comfortingly familiar, but the noticeable changes seemed to scream at him that things would never be the same. So, though it made him guilty to feel that way, it was a relief when they returned to school. Ron longed to throw himself back into his final months at Hogwarts and delay confronting the next stage in his life for at least a little while longer.

And there was certainly enough to keep him distracted. He realized when he first saw Malfoy again in the Great Hall at breakfast that his hormones were more than willing to dictate his thoughts. There was no real understanding between him and Malfoy about whatever it was they’d been doing together, of course, but Ron was eager to find out if there was a next step.

*****

Quidditch practice on Monday was particularly brutal. Harry was becoming almost as bad as he’d heard Oliver Wood once was, and he was determined to win the Quidditch Cup again before ending their time at Hogwarts. The pitch was frozen solid and the January wind bit at their noses and ears as it rushed relentlessly against them. As Keeper, Ron had the least chance to warm himself up by flying around, and he was shivering violently by the time Harry decided that it was too cold to continue and let them go in.

There was nothing he wanted more in the world at that moment than a hot bath. The though consumed his brain as he shivered and shook his way through the corridors toward the Prefect’s bathroom. When he finally reached its entrance, he practically sighed the password in relief.

He was first hit with a wall of warm, slightly damp air, which was suddenly followed by a warm, slightly damp body crashing into his.

“What the--” he started as,

“Hey, watch it!” greeted him.

Both he and his assaulter staggered back a step, and his back hit the door that had closed behind him. He looked up, and his throat went dry.

It was Malfoy. His hair was damp and he smelled of soap. The sight and scent affected Ron far more than he would’ve expected. There was a sudden, sharp pang of desire in his gut.

Wait, Malfoy wasn’t a Prefect anymore.

“How did you get in here?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

“Nice to see you too, Weasley,” the blond responded with his usual degree of sarcasm, but he did answer: “Apparently no one told the bath that I’m not a Prefect anymore.”

Typical.

“I’ll have to get that changed,” Ron muttered, but Malfoy ignored him.

“You’re filthy,” the blond observed with a sneer of distaste.

Ron rolled his eyes. He considered retorting, but then a hand had grabbed his robes at the neck, and since he was caught off guard, Malfoy was able to drag him toward the large bathing pool.

“Oi!” he protested. “What are you--?”

SPLASH!

Hitting the water hurt. He was protected from the impact by his robes, but the stark contrast between his cold skin and the hot water made his skin sting, and the weight of his Quidditch robes and gear dragged him further into it. The tub was deep, and he sputtered as he swam for the shallow.

He braced an arm on the edge of the pool and coughed a few times. The blond bastard was standing near him, chuckling victoriously. Ron glared at him.

With a grace Ron envied, Malfoy crouched down, grabbed Ron by the sodden collar of his Quidditch robes, and kissed him enthusiastically. Ron’s body instantly reminded him that it had been far too long, and he responded with fervor, a low groan in his throat. He could feel Malfoy’s lips shift into a smirk against his. Cocky git.

As slyly as he could, Ron took hold of the front of Malfoy’s impeccably clean shirt. The other boy emitted a small sound of approval, apparently taking the gesture as a sign of lust. Good, he could take him by surprise.

Ron summoned his strength and, using the fact that Malfoy was leaning toward him as leverage, hauled him into the bath. He laughed as water splashed his face and Malfoy struggled to right himself in the water. When he resurfaced, Ron expected an angry retaliation. The water had no doubt ruined Malfoy’s expensive clothing, and he would not be happy.

Instead, however, Malfoy grasped the hair at the back of Ron’s head and kissed him again, more violently than before. Ron was taken aback, and lost his footing. But Malfoy, stronger in the water, held him fast against the wall of the tub. Ron’s breath became harsh through his nose. He was shivering now for an entirely different reason. It seemed that Malfoy had missed this as much as he had. And by Merlin, Ron had missed it more than he’d realized.

His robes swirled around them, tangling, impeding. Malfoy made a noise of frustration and undid the clasp, disentangling Ron from them and hauling the heavy cloth out of the water with considerable effort. Ron braced himself on the edge of the tub and struggled to remove his leather boots. He’d have to dry them very carefully later or they’d be ruined, but it was difficult to care at that point. He threw them across the room. Malfoy did the same with his own shoes.

Thankfully he’d already removed his guards and padding in the locker room after practice, or he might’ve sunk like a stone when first thrown in. He was even gladder of it now that he was desperate to remove anything that prevented him feeling Malfoy against him. Malfoy seemed to be thinking the same thing, because once they were both in only shirts and trousers, he shoved Ron hard against the wall of the bath and crashed his hips against Ron’s as quickly as the water would allow.

Ron could feel through their clothing that Malfoy was as hard as he was. The blond was now tugging at Ron’s shirt insistently. Ron got the impression that Malfoy would’ve ripped it if the water hadn’t prevented it, but as it was the other boy had to be content with pulling it awkwardly over Ron’s head and tossing it away in annoyance.

The buttons of Malfoy’s shirt were frustratingly slippery as Ron tried to remove his shirt, and after a few failed attempts Malfoy took over and dispatched it himself. It, too, was soon forgotten somewhere on the floor.

Then Malfoy pressed against him again, reinitiating their kisses. Ron shivered. His skin apparently wasn’t as sensitive under the water, so it wasn’t ticklish. He relished the sensation as Malfoy realized this and slid a hand firmly up Ron’s side.

The feel of Malfoy’s fingers roaming his stomach and chest beneath the water was surprisingly erotic. He became very glad that the water made the nerves there able to bear the attention. Malfoy then wrapped his arms about Ron’s shoulders and resumed kissing him. Their chests came in contact again, and Malfoy emitted little groans against Ron’s mouth every time one of his nipples grazed against Ron’s. Ron, on the other hand, shivered reflexively in reaction to the overstimulation of his nerves. It was a wonderful sort of contrast in a way.

Merlin, he hated trousers! Their kisses had grown increasingly heated, and Malfoy was grinding his hips into Ron’s so fervently that it had begun to hurt. Ron broke away for a breath and shifted his mouth’s attention to Malfoy’s neck. He licked and bit at it absently as he focused on unbuttoning the fly of the blond’s trousers. Malfoy struggled to do the same for him.

It took a significant amount of effort for them to conquer their trousers, but in the end they were both victorious, and their trousers and pants were tossed haphazardly away. The struggle kept Ron from realizing until the last moment that he and Malfoy were going to be completely naked together.

Ron had never seen Malfoy naked. Hell, he hadn’t seen many other boys or men naked at all. He’d been too paranoid to do more than sneak curious glances in the dormitories and locker room. And now he and the bloke who had been the object of his desire since he’d been old enough to have one were both starkers, alone, locked in the Prefects’ bathroom. The nervousness and excitement threatened to overwhelm him.

“Like what you see?” Malfoy taunted, and Ron realized that he’d been intently focused on what he could see of the blond’s body through the distortion of the water.

Ron didn’t give Malfoy the pleasure of an answer. He had another form of pleasure in mind. He’d wanted to try it since Malfoy had done it to him before the holidays, and now seemed like the perfect opportunity.

He ducked down and hooked his forearms under Malfoy’s knees, allowing the blond a second to realize what was going on and brace his arms on the edge of the pool. Together they got him safely onto his back. The depth of the tub near the edge was essentially perfect. Standing between Malfoy’s thighs, Ron needed only to duck his head a bit to accomplish his goal.

Malfoy looked up at him in anticipation. Goosebumps peppered his skin, and his muscles were noticeably tense. He lay obediently on the mosaic tiled floor and waited.

Ron leaned down, examining the length of Malfoy’s cock. He tried to remember how the other boy had gone about this whole thing. At least the principle seemed fairly simple. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. He let his tongue slide experimentally from the base of Malfoy’s cock to the head, as Malfoy had done to him, and the blond’s hips bucked up.

Encouraged, Ron licked from base to head again several more times. He then eased Malfoy’s cock into his mouth. It was warm and firm between his lips, and he found that he could easily slide it into and out of his mouth.

Malfoy’s eyes closed and he emitted a soft sigh. Ron gained further confidence. He began to suck in earnest, moving his head, finding a rhythm, using Malfoy’s sounds of pleasure as indicators of what he was doing right.

Though he’d been certain that his inexperience was going to significantly hinder the success of this endeavor, Malfoy seemed to really enjoy it. Ron’s jaw begun to ache a bit, but he began to work his mouth over Malfoy’s cock in earnest.

So fixed was Ron on his work and fascinated by the reactions he was eliciting that he was taken aback when Malfoy began to groan and pant the fact that he was close. Ron suddenly realized with a bit of panic that he hadn’t thought of what to do about this. He followed Malfoy’s example and swallowed his cum, but immediately gagged and sputtered. Malfoy snorted in amusement, though he was now perfectly relaxed against the tile floor of the room with his eyes closed. Ron hadn’t known what to expect, and the taste and texture had caught him off guard, but it hadn’t been horribly unpleasant, and he imagined that with practice he could get used to it.

Ron hauled himself up on the tile, dripping water onto Malfoy’s now dry chest. The blond didn’t seem to mind at all, though his eyes opened and fixed on Ron’s as Ron hovered next to him on his hands and knees. There was satisfaction written in his features, and Ron felt that delicious thrill of victory that was the best part of every interaction he had with Malfoy.

Malfoy placed a hand on Ron’s chest insistently, and Ron took the cue to lie down on his back. In a matter of seconds, Malfoy was the one on his hands and knees, and had taken Ron’s cock into his mouth. He sucked hungrily, using his hand to urge Ron toward his orgasm, and when Ron came, Malfoy swallowed obediently as if nothing pleased him better. It was clear that Ron had a lot to learn about these things, but for the moment he was content to enjoy the fact that Malfoy was obviously a lot better at it than he was.

Ron’s victory was complete when he looked down to find the grey eyes dark again. ]Full of himself, Ron pushed his luck.

“Good boy,” he said smugly, and patted him on the head.

And as he was shoved head-first back into the tub, Ron decided that it had been absolutely worth it.

Chapter Eight: Give and Take

It was a balmy Saturday morning, and the team were all finishing their breakfast and preparing to head down to the pitch. All of them seemed excited and confident, and this did little to quell the anxious fluttering in the pit of Ron’s stomach. In fact, it made it worse.

“Meet you in the locker room,” he said to Harry, and headed toward the closest lavatory. He wasn’t particularly worried about this match compared with others, but, he was always worried when it came to Quidditch. No matter how many games he won, that would be undone if he cost Gryffindor a win. Before he left the lavatory, he splashed cold water on his face.

“Get it together,” he said to his reflection in the mirror. “It’s only Hufflepuff.”

“Indeed,” a voice from behind him said with a chuckle. Ron started and turned around to find Malfoy a few feet away.

The blond pointed his wand toward the door, and apparently cast a nonverbal spell, because Ron could hear the lock click. The Slytherin was always unnervingly quick.

Malfoy sauntered toward him.

“I’ve got to get down to the pitch,” Ron protested preemptively.

But of course, Malfoy didn’t care. He leant up to close their height difference and pressed his lips roughly to Ron’s. Ron placed a hand on the other boy’s chest with the intent of pushing him away, but abruptly changed his mind when Malfoy bit his lip. Instead, he took hold of Malfoy’s robes and maneuvered him back against the nearest wall. He deepened their kiss, tongue meeting tongue, and fully intended to snog the both of them senseless.

No. Quidditch. He had to get down to the pitch. Ron pulled away and took a few deep breaths. Malfoy wore a distinctly annoyed expression, but he relented. He pointed his hawthorn wand toward the lock in the door, and cast what must have been a silent alohamora.

He then turned back to Ron, grasped his collar with the free fingers of his wand hand, and whispered enigmatically in Ron’s ear:

“Good luck.”

Ron regarded Malfoy quizzically, but remembered that his teammates were waiting for him.

“Gotta go,” he said by way of explanation. Malfoy only shrugged. Leave it to Malfoy to act strangely right before a match. He was probably just trying to unsettle him, Ron decided. Well, it wasn’t going to work.

He let the matter go and hurried down to the pitch.

*****

Twenty minutes into the match, and the score was closer than the Gryffindors were comfortable with. Ron was doing fairly well, having only let in three goals out of Hufflepuff’s sixteen attempts, but Gryffindor had only managed to get four past the Hufflepuff Keeper, who was doing significantly better than usual. Ron didn’t like this change. He hoped Harry would catch the snitch as soon as possible and have done with it.

It was at that point that Ron began to notice something strange. Every few minutes, he felt like wind was blowing past his left ear. But the air was fairly still, and what breezes he did feel from time to time were cool, whereas the sensation against his ear was warm. Moreover, he didn’t feel it in his other ear or on his face or neck. What was going on?

The feeling began to grow more frequent, and increasingly distracting. It was hot air, almost like... breath. But that couldn’t be. There must be a strange type of wind blowing through. Weather in the spring could be unpredictable, after all.

But then he swore he could hear something. A whisper in the breath. Only he couldn’t make out words. His ear tickled. He took one hand off his broomstick and rubbed at it.

“Ten points to Hufflepuff!”

What? No, it couldn’t be--But one of the Hufflepuff Chasers was doing a victory lap around the pitch and his Gryffindor teammates were glaring at him. Harry flew closer to him and shouted, “What’s the matter, Ron? You weren’t even looking her way!”

Ron shook his head in confusion. “Sorry!” he called toward his captain. “Got a bit dizzy. Reckon I didn’t eat enough this morning. I’m better now.”

Harry rolled his eyes, clearly amused at the thought that Ron of all people hadn’t eaten enough, but he nodded and headed up higher again, resuming his search for the snitch. Ron shook off a pang of guilt about lying to Harry and instead focused back on the game, concentrating on the Hufflepuff Chasers and readying himself to spring into action if they came close to the goal hoops.

A sudden puff of hot air against his ear made him shiver. What was going on? Then the whispers returned, and he could finally make out words:

“Keep your head in the game, Weasley.”

That voice. That smug, mocking voice. There was no mistaking who was speaking in his ear. Ron didn’t know how that slimy git had done it, but he was going to make him pay for it.

“Shut it,” he growled, and was surprised to discover that Malfoy could hear him, at least based on the fact that the Slytherin was chuckling.

“Sorry,” Malfoy said unconvincingly, “I wouldn’t want to distract you.”

Ron refused to answer.

“Yes,” said a breathy voice, hot against his ear. “Just like that. Don’t stop.”

Another shiver coursed through Ron. No. Head in the game. Malfoy was just trying to distract him so Gryffindor would lose and Slytherin would have a better chance at the Cup. He resolutely ignored Malfoy and focused his attention back on the Chasers.

“Right there,” the falsely lusty voice continued, though Ron could discern the amusement in it.

“Shut it,” Ron repeated through gritted teeth. His eyes began to search the stands for Malfoy, trying to devise a way to stop him. What was he playing at? If he were watching the match, couldn’t the people next to him hear?

The panting breath grew louder, more strained. Ron was torn between being aroused by the sound and incensed that Malfoy could fake such a thing so convincingly. He was also discovering that being hard while on a broomstick was extremely uncomfortable.

A loud crack to his right drew his attention back. One of the Gryffindor Beaters had just slammed a bludger that had apparently been heading right toward him back to the other end of the pitch.

“Get it together!” his teammate yelled, and Ron nodded his head vigorously. He could do this. One of the Hufflepuff Chasers was heading toward him. She feigned left, then threw the quaffle at the right hoop. Ron dove toward it and caught it with his fingertips. All of Gryffindors in the stands cheered.

He took the opportunity while the quaffle was being put back into play to glance toward the small contingent of green-and-silver-clad students. And there he was. Sitting in the back row and smirking in an infuriatingly self-satisfied manner.

“Why hello,” Malfoy said smugly, having noticed Ron looking at him. Ron noticed his lips moving, just barely. “Having fun?”

“Loads of it,” Ron growled sarcastically.

“Glad to hear it.” And then, as Ron watched, he blew another hot breath. Ron’s eyes lidded for a second, but he shook his head determinedly. He would not let Malfoy ruin this for Gryffindor. He could do this. He could ignore him.

Oh, bollocks. He turned back to the game just in time to see another of Hufflepuff’s Chasers speeding toward him. Which goal was she going for? If it was the left one, there was no way he could make it over there to catch it in time. And she would know that. She pulled her arm back slightly to throw it. Ron sped toward the hoop. The quaffle flew from her fingertips. He wasn’t going to make it. He--

“Harry Potter catches the snitch! Gryffindor wins!”

What? Oh, thank Merlin! The quaffle flew through the hoop, but it didn’t matter. They’d won, and though Ron had still performed poorly, that was what counted in the end.

“Congratulations,” said a slightly disappointed voice in his ear.

Ron angled his broom toward the ground and immediately began plotting how he could get Malfoy back for that as he headed toward the locker room.

*****

Ron didn’t think he’d ever removed his quidditch gear so quickly in his life. He practically threw it off and shoved it in his rucksack. After congratulating Harry on an excellent catch, he hastily excused himself, saying that he had to go do McGonagall’s detention before supper. While this was technically true, he had one stop to make before he went.

“I know you can hear me,” he growled as he stalked back up toward the castle. There was no response. “Greenhouse One. now.”

There was a grumble of annoyance in his left ear. He was certain, however, that his order would be obeyed. Malfoy had a weakness for orders.

He was right. When he reached the greenhouse and opened the door, Malfoy was already inside.

Another sound of annoyance, and Ron winced in disorientation. He could hear it both in person and in his ear. Malfoy rolled his eyes and pointed his wand at Ron. Ron shook his head to clear it. He could hear normally again.

“Magic’s not allowed in quidditch.”

Malfoy smirked. “I wasn’t on the pitch.”

“Snake,” Ron spat. Leave it to a Slytherin to squirm through loopholes. He set his rucksack near the door.

“You won in the end, didn’t you?” Malfoy said dismissively.

Ron gritted his teeth. “That’s not the point.”

“And what is your point, exactly?”

Instead of responding, he grabbed the hair at the back of Malfoy’s head, tugging roughly. He stole a kiss, and a second was given to him all too willingly. Ron realized that he was giving Malfoy exactly what he’d hoped to receive by baiting Ron during the match, but he couldn’t help but give it to him anyway. Malfoy had just better hope that he was equal to the challenge.

The blond was soon groaning against Ron’s mouth. That was his cue. He abruptly broke their kiss and shoved Malfoy backward. Taken by surprise, he fell to the ground, hard, and cursed loudly.

Ron dropped to his knees between Malfoy’s thighs and pinned him to the ground by his shoulders. Malfoy was glaring up at him, grimacing in distaste at being made to lie in the dirt. Ron, on the other hand, breathed deep the smell of rich earth. Unlike the stuck-up, spoiled prig beneath him, Ron had grown up rough and messy and loving the grass and the woods and getting dirty now and again.

“Should’ve known you’d like dirt,” Malfoy scoffed. “After all, your girlfr--”

“She’s not my girlfriend!” Ron snapped, and shoved Malfoy’s face to the side, so he got dirt in his hair and on his cheek.

The sight of Malfoy a bit dirtied up was far more appealing than was logical. Ron was sometimes taken aback by how satisfying it was to dishevel Malfoy in one form or another. He liked to effect a visible change in the pureblood aristocrat’s usually impeccably kempt appearance. He liked to muss up his hair, wrinkle his clothes, bite and bruise his flesh. It was incontrovertible evidence that he was not only capable of, but was allowed to touch the object of his desire in any way he chose.

Malfoy glared up at him, seeming poised to utter a smart remark or biting retort, but then he stopped. Perhaps he’d noticed the shallowness of Ron’s breathing, the lust in his eyes and on his face. The blond’s own breath hitched. He relaxed against the earth and lay obediently still. Ron uttered a low growl of victory in his throat and rewarded his Slytherin with a kiss. Yes, this was one of the moments where Ron felt that he truly had possession of the other boy.

The pressure of Malfoy’s lips grew strong, hungry, needy. His breath was shallow now, too, as Ron moved to nip his way along the fair skin of his jaw, over to his neck, to the sensitive flesh beneath his ear. Malfoy groaned and lifted his hips toward Ron’s when he took the soft earlobe between his teeth and bit down. He then soothed the injured skin with his tongue. Malfoy was panting now.

Strange plants shifted quietly in their pots, but Ron was only dimly aware. He liked it here. The air was warm and humid, but not in an oppressive way. Breathing it felt good. He liked the smell of the earth mixing with the musky scent he had come to recognize as wholly Malfoy. He kissed him again. He grasped his hair with a dirt-stained hand. The best part was that Malfoy seemed too far gone to care.

The blond was clutching at Ron’s hips now, trying to pull him down against his. Ron obliged, shifting so that he could grind his hips roughly against Malfoy’s, relishing the friction, glorying in their mutual desperation. He was heady with lust and power. He wanted more. He could hardly wrap his brain around what it was or how he might get it, but he wanted it.

Ron tugged at Malfoy’s jumper in frustration. He hated clothes. He was certain that he hated nothing in the world so much as clothes in that moment. He clutched the collar of Malfoy’s shirt with both hands and tugged until the top button gave way. Malfoy made a sound of hazy protest, but it was too late. Ron made short work of the rest of the buttons, and smiled in self-satisfaction at the remains.

He sat up and pulled his own jumper, shirt, and undershirt over his head and threw them on the ground somewhere behind him. Malfoy was looking down at his ruined shirt in annoyance, apparently trying to decide if he wanted to take it off or not. Ron could see him weighing the pros and cons: if he took it off, he’d have to lie in the dirt, but if he left it on, that made all of this more difficult.

Ron made the decision for him. He hauled Malfoy up toward him and awkwardly pulled his arms out of the sleeves. The fine shirt, too, was soon discarded. He laid Malfoy back against the ground, despite a noise of disgust from the pampered brat.

“It’s just dirt,” Ron said in Malfoy’s ear, blowing hot breath against it. Malfoy shivered. Ha! thought Ron. See how you like it!

But oh, he did like it. Malfoy seemed to forget the earth beneath him, and arched his back up toward Ron.

He made a rough, frustrated noise. “Fuck!” he grumbled, squirming uncomfortably in the dirt. “Don’t you at least have a cloak?”

“What?”

“A bloody cloak! I’ve had enough of dirt.”

Oh. Right. Ron reluctantly stumbled to his feet and grabbed his rucksack. He rummaged through his various quidditch gear until he found his cloak and pulled it free. He tossed it toward Malfoy, and the blond caught it deftly.

Malfoy stood up on his knees and made a big show of brushing as much dirt off of himself as he could manage. When he had apparently decided that he’d done his best, he laid the cloak out over the dirt and crawled onto it. Confident and playful, Ron moved back toward him and pounced on him from the back, pinning him to the cloak.

Ron grinned, victorious. Malfoy’s cheek was pressed against the rough fabric, and Ron could see only half of his face. He expected to find those grey eyes filled with the lust they had contained moments before, but instead he found something else there. Ron was startled to realize that it was anxiety. He had never seen Malfoy exhibit the slightest bit of nervousness in their interactions before. Why would that change now?

He slid his hips against Malfoy’s backside, and the other boy trembled beneath him. Oh.. The reason for this unexpected anxiety suddenly dawned on him. Was it possible that Malfoy had never been with other wizards before... like this?

Was he going to fight Ron? Would he insist on taking control? Because Ron had no intention of giving it up. As much as he had deferred to Malfoy’s expertise in most of their interactions, there was one thing he knew for certain: he wanted to be the one doing the shagging.

And it seemed to him, for all his nervousness, that Malfoy wanted that too. The trembling had subsided, and though his body was still very tense beneath Ron’s, his eyes had slid closed in a subtle but unmistakable expression of pleasure. Ron rocked his hips forward, and a small groan sounded in Malfoy’s throat.

He stopped moving for a moment, giving them both a chance to sort out how they felt about what could happen next. His head was swimming. He wanted this so badly that it was difficult to be nervous. He couldn’t stop now.

Ron almost sighed in relief as Malfoy’s muscles slowly untensed beneath him. The other boy was carefully controlling his breathing, apparently forcibly calming himself. Yes, Ron decided, Malfoy wanted it.

“Tell me what to do,” Ron said quietly. He wished he knew how to do this on his own, but better to ask for advice rather than make a mistake.

Malfoy hesitated, then, after a moment:

“Wand,” he said, rather reluctantly.

Ron’s eyes scanned the ground around them until they landed on the hawthorn wand in the dirt next to them. It must’ve fallen out of Malfoy’s pocket. He shifted and reached for it.

A strange jolt went through him as his hand closed around it. He shivered reflexively. He hated holding other people’s wands. He did note, however, that this one actually felt like Malfoy. He couldn’t explain in what way, exactly, but there was just a sort of sense of his personality in there. That made the sensation not altogether unpleasant.

He handed it to Malfoy and the blond performed a summoning charm. There was a popping sound, and a glass vial appeared on the ground near Malfoy’s hand. He looked up at Ron and gave him a significant look.

Ron’s eyes shifted from Malfoy’s to the vial, and he swallowed. He thought he had an idea of what to do with that. First though, there was the matter of getting rid of their trousers. Ron again lamented the existence of clothing.

He shifted off of Malfoy and motioned for him to roll over. He complied, and Ron bent to tug at Malfoy’s lower lip with his teeth as his fingers unbuttoned the fly to the blond’s trousers. He was so hard beneath Ron’s hand as Ron struggled to rid him of his trousers and pants. He snarled in annoyance at Malfoy’s shoes and cursed until he’d gotten rid of them, socks, pants, trousers, and all, leaving Malfoy naked and looking unusually vulnerable on Ron’s cloak.

Ron then made as short of work as possible of his own remaining clothing. He wasn’t sure if it was necessary to be completely naked for this, but he didn’t want any variables that might make the process more complicated. He swallowed nervously. What was he supposed to do next? He knew what was in the vial, and what they needed it for, but he was still a bit fuzzy on the mechanics.

Malfoy was apparently growing impatient. He reached for the vial and held it up.

“I hope you at least know what this is for.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ron said defensively.

“Well, I’ve found that it’s best not to overestimate your knowledge,” Malfoy taunted.

No, Ron wasn’t going to tolerate that. Not now. He was inexperienced, yes, but he wasn’t about to let Malfoy take back control. To make that point, he sunk his fingers into the blond hair and grasped it roughly. Malfoy’s eyes shut and his breath caught. There. That’d remind him.

When Ron released his hair, Malfoy wordlessly uncorked the vial and poured a small amount of translucent liquid into his hand. He then slid it along the length of Ron’s cock, rubbing it over his skin. Ron couldn’t help but gasp at the sensation. He’d expected the potion to be cold, but it was the same temperature as the air around them. It diminished the friction between his skin and Malfoy’s hand, enhancing the pleasure the other boy’s firm grip caused. He found that he was disappointed when Malfoy had finished coating him.

Malfoy held the open vial out to Ron then, and he took it. Carefully, he poured about the same amount of liquid into his hand as Malfoy had used. He examined the feel of the potion in his hand. It was slick and smooth, not sticky, not particularly thick, but not watery either. It dawned on him that this particular potion had probably been created just for this purpose. He’d never really thought about the fact that there must be an entire branch of magic devoted to sex. That fact was a bit overwhelming at the moment. Focus, Ron. Use the potion.

Hesitantly, with a flicker of that anxiety in his eyes again, Malfoy turned away from Ron. He got down on his hands and knees and fixed his eyes resolutely on the cloak beneath them. Somehow, Malfoy’s nervousness gave Ron courage.

The other boy’s reaction to his fingers added a boost of confidence. He worked slowly, trying to learn from Malfoy’s reactions if he was doing this right. Each gasp and sigh made him more impatient. Soon Malfoy was insistently rocking his hips back into Ron’s hand and breathing heavily. Ron’s own breathing was coming more quickly, and his heartbeat had sped up. He liked very much that he could make Malfoy react this way.

“Is that enough?”

“Y-yes,” Malfoy answered, his voice shaky--with nervousness, lust, or both, Ron couldn’t tell.

He rose to his knees. Malfoy looked back at him over his shoulder with an intoxicating mixture of hunger and apprehension on his features. The hunger mirrored Ron’s, and the apprehension spurred Ron’s desire to dominate. There was no room for Ron to be nervous anymore. Every part of him was consumed by lust and buoyed by the confidence that Malfoy’s reactions gave him. He could do this, he could do it well, and he was going to enjoy every second of it.

Without further ado, he gripped Malfoy’s hips, took a deep breath, and pushed slowly forward. Malfoy’s reaction was immediate. There was a sharp intake of breath, and his entire body tensed. This made it very difficult for Ron to proceed. Relax, he thought, and ran his palm along Malfoy’s lower back to remind him of what he probably already knew he needed to do. Having been on the other end of shagging, he would know better than Ron would.

The silent command was obeyed, and Ron and Malfoy groaned in near unison as he slid completely in. The sensation was incredible. Sure, Malfoy’s mouth had been one of the most pleasurable things he had ever experienced, but this was different. He was hot, slick, and very tight, especially at the entrance.

Malfoy’s muscles clenched and a guttural moan escaped Ron’s lips. The blond managed a little chuckle between gasps, and Ron retaliated by thrusting into him roughly. Malfoy’s groan of pleasure was even louder than Ron’s, and Ron smirked. This was fun.

The best part about it was that Malfoy didn’t really have an advantage over him. Sure, he’d shagged blokes before, but he hadn’t been shagged. In a way, they were both new at this.

It soon became a sort of battle between them, each trying to make the other react more obviously, get louder. When Ron finally got the brilliant idea to steady himself with one hand on Malfoy’s hip and reach to close his other hand around the blond’s cock, he easily won. He relished every sound of pleasure with a cocky grin between his own poorly-contained utterances.

Ron was relieved to find that he had a decent amount of longevity, but it still seemed as if it was over all too soon. He worried that he was a bit too rough at the end, but Malfoy made no sign of protest. Trite as it was, Ron actually got a bit light-headed when he came. The combination of this and the earlier quidditch match had made for a physically demanding day.

He held himself steady for a few moments while he tried to catch his breath, but he soon felt Malfoy trembling under his hands. Ron carefully pulled away, feeling a pang of guilt as Malfoy made a little sound of discomfort. The blond soon dropped fully onto the ground, gingerly stretching out his arms and legs. Ron couldn’t blame him: his own knees and thighs were now making it clear that he had not been in the most comfortable of positions. He collapsed on the cloak next to Malfoy and stretched his legs as well.

They lay panting for a full minute, Malfoy looking rather dazed, Ron trying to suppress the urge to grin like an idiot. He didn’t quite succeed. Malfoy noticed, but seemed too distracted to take offense. Ron realized why: not only had Malfoy just endured being on the receiving end of a shag for the first time, but he also hadn’t come yet.

Right. Okay. Malfoy had certainly earned it. Ron pressed the other boy’s back to the ground and leaned over him. He didn’t feel like he had much control over his mouth’s coordination, but Malfoy didn’t seem to need much more stimulation. Soon they were both lying on the cloak again, slowing their respective breath and heartbeats.

Bliss, Ron thought. Bloody brilliant. The best thing he had ever felt. And though Malfoy looked a bit overwhelmed, Ron could tell that he’d gotten his fair share of enjoyment out of it as well. Hopefully this meant that Ron could look forward to more than one repeat of this event in the future.

Oh, fuck.

Ron brought a hand to his face and groaned.

“Fuck,” he said, out load now.

Malfoy rolled over grumpily and looked at Ron, seeming to dare him to interrupt his post-sex basking.

“McGonagall’s bloody detention,” Ron explained.

Malfoy pounded his fist on the ground and growled his frustration.

“Great,” he grumbled.

With a resigned sigh, Ron got up and started cleaning up. Malfoy reluctantly followed his example, and the two were careful to leave the greenhouse separately when they made their way back up to the castle.

They spent their detention in complete silence, both giving no sign of what had transpired less than an hour previous. Ron couldn’t help but grin ear-to-ear, however, every time he noticed that Malfoy was waking a bit funny.


Chapter Nine: All for One

After Gryffindor’s match with Hufflepuff and Ron’s own personal victory, time moved steadily toward the end of the term. Slytherin won their match against Ravenclaw, so the House Cup would be Gryffindor against Slytherin. Harry thought this was an excellent match-up for their last quidditch game at school, and Ron agreed. However, he was a bit nervous about playing opposite Malfoy again.

Ron’s hopes for more interludes with Malfoy were fulfilled, and often. Their detentions gave them a stretch of time daily wherein their absence was perfectly plausible. While they still had to clean the cages, they never had a definite time frame within which to do so. Ron hoped that this would provide him with a solid enough alibi that Harry, Hermione, and Ginny wouldn’t get suspicious. It seemed to be working, thankfully.

Having these opportunities prompted Ron to take advantage of them whenever he could. He grew rather fond of shoving Malfoy up against the animals’ enclosures and snogging him until he stopped struggling. Malfoy grew distinctly annoyed at Ron’s near-constant grins of victory, but though he still fought Ron out of principle, he always gave in in the end.

Empty classrooms, dark corridors, the Prefects’ lounge, and the Prefects’ bathroom all became familiar retreats. They also revisited the quidditch locker rooms and even tried out Greenhouse Three once, though the venomous tentacula cut their fun short.

Even with the House Cup match and exams fast approaching, Ron thought he had never been happier. Nothing between him and Malfoy was gentle, affectionate, or even friendly, but Ron found that he liked it that way. He relished the conflict, the struggle, the roughness. He couldn’t get enough of it, and it gave him no end of pleasure that Malfoy couldn’t seem to either.

He’d have to remember to thank McGonagall for giving them all of those detentions when school was over.

*****

Ron did not like this. His house allegiance had always been rock-solid. His entire family had been Gryffindors, and he’d support his house to the last. However, as he hovered in front of the goal hoops watching the match intently, a very small part of his brain was entertaining the idea that he might like to see Malfoy catch the snitch.

A traitorous thought! It wasn’t that he wanted Slytherin to win, or anything: it was just that he was enjoying watching Malfoy fly. He had to admit, with no small measure of jealousy, that the Slytherin was graceful on a broom. He was almost as good a flier as Harry was, though Ron would never dream of telling Harry that.

No, he needed to focus. He’d never forgive himself if he missed a goal because he was admiring Malfoy. Ron turned his eyes back on the quaffle, watching carefully as it was speedily passed from Chaser to Chaser, back and forth across the pitch, switching hands as bludgers flew toward their targets. The sky was a whirl of green and red robes, and Ron concentrated hard to keep track of the quaffle.

One of the Slytherin Chasers suddenly caught the quaffle and threw it deftly toward the right hoop, but Ron shot toward it and caught it in his right hand. Harry grinned at him as Ron pumped his fist in the air victoriously. But he shouldn’t celebrate yet: the match was far from over. Slytherin led by twenty points, and with the game that close, it would be essential for Harry to be the one who caught the snitch.

Gryffindor scored two more goals, but though Ron blocked four attempts by Slytherin, he also let one through. Slytherin led by ten now.

Then, suddenly, Malfoy dove from high above Ron right toward the goals. What was he playing at? Ron looked to his right and saw it: the snitch was hovering not three feet from his shoulder. Harry was on Malfoy’s tail in the space of a second, but Malfoy would almost certainly get there first. How could Ron stop him?

There was nothing for it. In an instant, Ron gripped the handle of his broom and shot straight in front of Malfoy, who had to swerve away from the snitch to avoid crashing into him. Even then, the end of his broomstick caught Ron’s hand, jamming it painfully and creating what would almost certainly become a nasty bruise later.

Ron swore loudly and shook his hand, but it’d been worth it. His move had worked, and Harry had caught the snitch. Gryffindor had won the House Cup! Ron and his teammates streamed toward the ground and a sweaty, muddy group hug ensued. Ron was commended repeatedly for his quick thinking, and all of them were grinning from ear to ear.

Even the expression of outraged defeat on Malfoy’s face couldn’t bring him down then.

Professor McGonagall, in a fit of good will generated by the Gryffindor victory, pulled Ron and Malfoy aside after the match and told them that she’d cancelled their detentions for the rest of the term. Granted, there wasn’t much left of the term anyway, but it was still a nice reprieve.

Ron was torn, though. Those detentions had been his only way of meeting up with Malfoy without arousing suspicion. What were they going to do now? He’d hoped to enjoy that last bit of time before the end of term, because he was certain that whatever he and Malfoy were doing would finish when they left school. He’d been trying hard not to think about that and just enjoy what he could get in the meantime.

He looked at Malfoy, then back over at his teammates, who were standing on the other side of the pitch admiring the House Cup. Maybe if he didn’t tell anyone that the detentions had been cancelled... It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it was the best he could come up with. He’d have to think about it later.

Malfoy was glowering at the Gryffindors in disgust. The rest of the Slytherin team had already left the pitch. Ron turned to speak to him, but the Malfoy snarled, shoved past him, and stormed back up to the castle.

Ron rolled his eyes. He was used to Malfoy’s melodrama by now. He returned to his team and reveled in their congratulations again.

The Gryffindor team strode victoriously through the main castle entrance, muddy and in the highest of spirits. As Ron pulled one of the huge doors to the side, he remembered very suddenly and painfully that Malfoy’s broomstick had injured his hand. He reflexively let go of the door, swearing loudly, and causing Harry to have to catch it.

“What’s wrong?”Harry asked.

Ron looked down and examined the slightly swollen, bruised state of his hand.

“Malfoy’s broom caught my hand when I blocked him,” he explained with annoyance.

“Better let Madam Pomfrey look at it, I guess.”

“Yeah.”

And then it dawned on Ron. This was the perfect excuse! He could sneak off now and go find Malfoy. The adrenaline from the match was still coursing fast through his system and he wanted to burn it out. He might have time for an interlude and to get his hand mended and still get back up to the common room in time to catch most of the victory party.

“You should,” Harry pressed.

Ron nodded in a way that he hoped seemed unsuspicious. “Yeah, I think I will.”

“See you up in the common room after?”Harry asked, his face shining with a victorious grin again. “I’ll try to save you some butterbeer.”

“Sounds great,” Ron said, and waved goodbye to his teammates as he headed down the corridor.

Ron caught up to Malfoy on the dungeon staircase that led down to the Slytherin dormitories. He remembered the way because of his and Harry’s ill-planned undercover visit in second year.

“Where’re you going?” He called after Malfoy playfully. “We were having so much fun.”

“Sod off,” Malfoy said coldly as he continued down the steps without so much as glancing back at Ron. This only made Ron smile. He loved taking the mickey out of Malfoy.

“And I thought Gryffindors were the sore losers.”

Malfoy stopped abruptly turned to look at Ron. His face had flecks of mud on it and his hair was disheveled. His Quidditch robes were equally in disarray.

“Sod off,” he repeated with an angry growl in his voice, then turned away and continued walking.

“Don’t know why you’re getting so shirty,” Ron said to Malfoy’s back as he followed after him. His next remark was said with calculated innuendo: “I thought you liked being beneath me.”

Malfoy’s reaction was instantaneous, but not what Ron had expected. He stiffened, and shifted his eyes down either direction of the corridor as if he were afraid someone had heard.

He didn’t say anything. Instead, he glanced around the corridor walls until his eyes landed on a particular tapestry. It had a snake on it, but that wasn’t notable for this corridor since half of the paintings and wall hangings contained portraits of Salazar Slytherin or some sort of serpentine image. But this one was special somehow, if Malfoy’s attention were any indication.

The blond reached his hand out and pulled the tapestry back to reveal a hidden door. Still silent, he wrenched it open, grabbed Ron by the wrist (thankfully, the uninjured one), and shoved him into the room behind it. Ron spun around to look at Malfoy in time to see him mutter a word that made the door disappear entirely.

“Where are we?” Ron asked as he looked around, a cocky smile still set on his lips. The room was relatively small and plain. The walls were stone like the rest of the castle, and decorated with tapestries that had seen better days. Various sofas and chairs were set against the walls, and sweet wrappers, card games, and a Wizarding chess set littered the tables. Ron guessed that wherever this was, the house elves did not have access.

Instead of answering his question, Malfoy shouted at him.

“What do you think you’re playing at?”

Ron was taken aback. “It was just a bit of f--”

“Fun?” Malfoy was absolutely furious. “You think it’s fun trying to get me chucked into Azkaban? I’ve got two weeks left, and if you fuck this up for me I will tell Saint Potter and your little mudblood girlfriend everything.”

Ron didn’t even bother with his usual ‘She’s not my girlfriend.’

“Come off it,” he spat, not taking kindly to the threat. “You really think they’d expel you for messing about with me?”

Granted, Ron didn’t want anyone to find out about what Malfoy and he were doing either, but he wasn’t worried about the possibility of it getting him chucked out of school.

“Yes,” Malfoy said emphatically, “I’m already on probation, you got us a bloody year’s worth of detention--”

“Wait, I got us--?” Ron protested, but Malfoy talked over him.

“--and the teachers don’t exactly take kindly to students shagging in the sodding greenhouses!”

Ron suppressed the urge to laugh as a mental image of Professor Sprout finding them in one of the greenhouses popped into his head. It would be mortifying in real life, sure, but it was very funny to think of.

When Ron didn’t respond, Malfoy crossed his arms and looked away. Ron had learned that unless he wanted a full-on row, it was best not to give Malfoy more fuel for an argument. If Ron fought back, they’d be at it forever, and this didn’t seem like the kind of anger that would lead to something fun.

They stood in silence for a full minute before Ron moved to sit on the nearest sofa and idly shuffled through the chocolate frog cards on the table, being careful not to jar his injured hand and wrist. He decided that they must be in some sort of little secret Slytherin lounge. Ron had heard that places like this existed, but he’d never been able to find out if Gryffindor had one, and if so, where it was.

After another minute had passed, Malfoy sighed in frustration and ran his hands through his mud-speckled hair. He threw himself down into a nearby chair, still determinedly looking away from Ron, who went back to rifling through the cards. He’d never gotten around to finding that Gripper.

Ron heard an irritated noise from the chair and looked up. Malfoy was scowling down at his dirty Quidditch robes as if he’d just realized he hadn’t bathed or changed after the match. Ron was in just as disheveled a state, but since he wasn’t used to always being immaculately dressed, he wasn’t bothered at all.

Without looking up, he casually said, “If it bothers you, take it off.”

Malfoy made another irritated noise and did not respond. Well that was no fun.

He looked up and stared at Malfoy intently. After a few stubborn moments, the other boy finally turned toward him. Ron smirked, Malfoy glared at him and looked away again.

Ron stood and crossed to the chair Malfoy was occupying. Grey eyes slowly looked up and met his. Ron could actually see the conflict within them. This gave him a significant boost of confidence, and he smiled in self-satisfaction.

This made Malfoy’s eyes turn resentful and fix on a spot near Ron’s knee.

“Get up.”

Malfoy crossed his arms again. Fine, if he wanted to play it that way, Ron was game.

He grasped Malfoy’s Quidditch robes at the neck and hauled him up by them. Malfoy coughed harshly before he grabbed Ron’s hand to keep from choking and steadied himself on his feet.

Anger was written on every aristocratic feature, and Ron’s decision to continue smiling intensified it in a beautiful way.

“Get off,” Malfoy said defiantly.

“No.”

Malfoy attempted to prise Ron’s hands from his robes with little success. Ron stood patiently, acting as if preventing him from doing so was a very easy task.

Just as easily, Ron pulled him forward and kissed him. Malfoy struggled and tried to push him away, but Ron persisted. Malfoy gave up on trying to remove Ron’s hands from his robes and instead worked on gaining leverage by pushing his chest away. But he wasn’t really fighting, Ron knew. There were so many ways to get away if he’d really wanted to. He liked it, and that made Ron smile against Malfoy’s mouth before biting at his bottom lip.

Then came one of those beautiful moments where Malfoy gave in. They never lasted long, but they proved to Ron that beneath the protestations Malfoy wanted him to be in control, and that made the quest for control all the sweeter.

The struggling stopped. The grey eyes slid closed. The hands on his chest went slack. The lips against his pressed back. He kept one hand at the front of Malfoy’s robes and slipped the other into the mud-speckled white blond hair and grasped it tight. This made Malfoy emit a strained sort of gasp in between kisses and seemed to restart his apparently irrepressible need to fight back.

Malfoy’s hands clutched Ron’s robes at his chest and he moved his mouth to Ron’s neck

“No.”

‘No’ was the magic word when it came to Malfoy.

Malfoy looked up at him with an expression that was part annoyance, part frustration, and part expectancy.

Ron answered him with a look that attempted to convey, ‘Figure it out.’ The message must have gotten across because now only annoyance and frustration were present on Malfoy’s face.

There was nothing left for Malfoy to do but experiment. He moved to kiss Ron again but Ron refused to respond. Clearly even more annoyed, but determined, Malfoy placed a hand at the clasp of Ron’s Quidditch robes. He looked up at Ron enquiringly. Ron gave him a disapproving stare.

And then he seemed to remember Ron’s earlier suggestion, and sullenly moved his hand to the clasp of his own robes. Ron said nothing, but Malfoy took that for the encouragement it was and continued. Still glaring at Ron, he shrugged out of the muddied robe, leaving him in the durable knit shirt, trousers, and boots of a Seeker.

Ron observed what he had never noticed about Harry’s uniform: the fabric of the shirt was slightly thicker than other players’, presumably to guard against the cold of circling high above the pitch and sprinting through the air periodically. It also might make up for the fact that the Seeker’s uniform apparently had no padding. No Quidditch uniform had a lot of padding, but everyone else had some to help protect against bludger hits. Ron, as a Keeper, had the thickest.

The contrast between Malfoy’s wiry frame, covered only by his shirt and trousers, and Ron’s taller and more muscular build, augmented by thick Keepers’ padding, made Ron feel even more powerful.

Apparently conscious of Ron’s scrutiny, Malfoy shifted awkwardly. He, too, seemed to have realized how imposing Ron currently looked compared with him, and was not happy about it.

But Ron let his eyes linger on the green and silver knit shirt until Malfoy sighed in resignation and pulled it over his head. This particularly pleased Ron because it further mussed up the disordered white-blond hair.

Ron smirked his approval, and Malfoy glowered at him. However, he did obey when Ron gestured for him to continue. He dropped down and struggled to remove his muddy boots while Ron waited patiently.

Though there was a lot of grumbling, Ron knew that Malfoy was making a show of being more annoyed than he actually was. Even if he wasn’t familiar enough with Malfoy’s moods to be able to tell by now, there were other signs. When Malfoy had succeeded in divesting himself of his socks, trousers, and pants, Ron could clearly see that the blond quite enjoyed being told what to do.

“Now me,” Ron growled against Malfoy’s ear.

And as Malfoy began the process of trying to figure out how to remove Ron’s complex array of quidditch gear, Ron simply stood blithely still, exceptionally pleased with himself.

*****

Half an hour later, they both lay panting on the carpet. It was with great reluctance that Ron decided that he’d better get back up to Gryffindor Tower soon. He stood shakily and began gathering his clothing. It was only when he tried to pull his trousers back on that he remembered his injured hand. Apparently his nerves had been otherwise occupied since Malfoy had finally succeeded in removing his clothing.

Ron swore. “I told Harry I was getting Pomfrey to fix my hand.”

“So?” Malfoy had risen to his feet and was in the process of redonning his clothing. His voice was muffled, as he was hauling his shirt back over his head.

“Well I can’t very well go back with a hurt hand having been gone all this time, can I?” Ron sat down in a nearby chair to lace up his boots. “Might be a bit of a give-away.”

Malfoy grimaced in distaste at the feeling of his dirty clothing, then rolled his eyes. “Give it here.”

Ron winced as Malfoy took his wrist and examined it.

“Next time I’ll get more than your hand,” he muttered threateningly, clearly still sore about losing the match, but he waved his wand over the injury all the same.

Ron experienced a rather unpleasant sensation as the swelling receded and his muscles and tendons righted.

“When’d you get so good at nonverbal magic anyway?” he asked, flexing his hand gingerly and finding that it was perfectly healed.

Malfoy busied himself examining a spot of mud on his sleeve and answered casually, “I had a lot of spare time last year.”

Oh.

Ron tried to curtail the train of thought that this comment opened up. The memory of Malfoy back when they’d been captured and brought to the Manor... What would Ron have done if he’d been locked up in his own house with Voldemort living there?

He didn’t want to think about it, and he most certainly didn’t want to talk about it. He was glad that Malfoy didn’t seem to want to, either.

“Don’t you have a party to get to?” Malfoy said, with no small amount of bitterness.

Ron felt only very slightly guilty about how his mouth broke into a grin at this reminder of Gryffindor’s victory. Malfoy gave him his best glare.

“Thanks,” said Ron, indicating his hand. He tugged Malfoy toward him by the collar and kissed him soundly. Malfoy made a sound of annoyance, but allowed it.

“Get out,” the blond grumbled, and he didn’t have to tell Ron twice. He was more than happy to get back up to the tower and enjoy the more communal part of his post-match celebrations.


Chapter Ten: Rain Check

“That took longer than I expected,” Harry said, handing Ron a butterbeer. Ron took it gratefully. All that exertion had made him thirsty.

“You know Pomfrey,” he lied. “She’s always got to look you completely over if she catches you after a match. She wouldn’t believe that I’d only hurt my hand. Hates quidditch, that one.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, though Ron wasn’t sure if he was quite convinced. No, he was probably just being paranoid.

Ron spent the rest of the evening being commended for his quick thinking in preventing Malfoy from getting the snitch. Hermione fussed over his hand a bit.

“Well I’m glad Harry convinced you to get it seen to,” she said. “It was a brilliant save, Ron. Malfoy looked absolutely furious!”

She giggled, and Ron smiled. “He did, at that.”

“It’s nice to have won our last chance at the Cup, isn’t it?” she continued. “Harry’s so pleased.”

He nodded. He and Hermione chatted for a bit, but she soon said that she had some studying she still wanted to fit in that night, and bade Harry and him goodnight. After another hour, only Ron, Harry, and a few straggler housemates were left in the common room. Harry and Ron sat in their favorite chairs by the fire, while the others talked idly at the other end of the room.

“So,” Harry said, “who is it?”

Ron didn’t understand the question at first.

“What?”

“Who is it?” Harry repeated, giving Ron a significant look.

When Ron caught on, a rush of fear ran through him. Had Harry found out? How?

“I don’t know what you mean, mate.”

Harry shook his head. “You can tell me.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Ron said, trying to act casually.

“I’m not stupid, Ron,” Harry insisted, growing annoyed.

Ron was silent.

Harry didn’t speak for a moment either, and then: “It’s not a witch, is it.”

It wasn’t a question. Ron’s stomach was heavy with apprehension.

“I don’t know what you’re on about,” he said evasively, but his blasted face flushed with shame.

“Come on, Ron,” Harry said. “I’m your best friend. Stop lying to me.”

Ron fell silent again and stared resolutely at the fire. He could feel Harry’s eyes on him.

“Well, you should at least tell Hermione,” Harry said quietly.

Panic rose up in Ron’s stomach. ”No!”

“Then you admit it?”

Ron’s cheeks burned and he hid his face in his hands. He refused to respond.

“You don’t have to tell everyone,” Harry continued, “but she deserves to know. You know how she feels about you. The longer you wait, the more it’s going to hurt her when she finds out. And she will,” he added. “She’s Hermione.”

Ron groaned. “If you’ve noticed, I can’t believe she hasn’t.”

He looked up at Harry, who smiled sort of sadly. “She’s got a bit of a blind spot when it comes to you.”

“Yeah...” Ron was suddenly overcome by a wave of guilt. “I’ve been horrible to her, haven’t I?”

Harry didn’t lie, but he was clearly trying to be gentle. “Not on purpose,” he said, and placed his hand on Ron’s shoulder, “but hasn’t it gone on long enough?”

Ron nodded his head reluctantly.

“Harry?” he said.

“Yeah?”

He swallowed hard. “Thanks.”

*****

Ron and Malfoy pretended that they still had detention the next day. Ron had a feeling that Harry knew he was lying, but he chanced it anyway. He needed to exorcise his nervousness. He needed to stop thinking for a while. An hour in that Slytherin lounge where they’d gone after the quidditch final helped immensely. He even let Malfoy take control for a bit to help him clear his head. Things made more sense mid-shag. Life seemed less complicated.

But when he emerged from the secret room, body aching and lips kiss-swollen, reality washed back over him like a bucket of ice water. He didn’t want to do it. He thought he’d rather face another Death Eater than face the prospect of telling Hermione the truth.

He had to get it over with, though. He had the feeling that if he didn’t tell her, Harry might. At the very least, Harry would keep on him about it until he finally did talk to her. Ron didn’t think his friend would let him wait until after they left school, unfortunately. Perhaps their future was too uncertain beyond that point.

After supper that night, he gathered his Gryffindor courage and steeled himself to approach Hermione. He found her in the library, as usual, doing some more revising. They had another week before exams, but she was, well, Hermione.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” he whispered, wary of incurring Madam Pince’s wrath.

Hermione looked up at him, a frustrated expression on her face. “Can it wait, Ron? I can’t seem to figure out the translation for this rune and I’m certain it’ll be on the exam.”

No, if he didn’t do it now, he didn’t know when he’d have the nerve again.

“I’ll be quick, I promise.”

She hesitated, then closed her books. “Oh, all right. I suppose I’ve been studying long enough for now.”

Hermione packed up her things and followed Ron out of the library. He led her to a nearby classroom and shut the door behind them.

Ron thought he discerned a sort of nervous excitement in her expression, and his heart sank. Oh great, she thought that maybe he’d brought her here to snog or something. Perfect timing.

“There’s something I need to tell you.”

He couldn’t tell if she was concerned or expectant. He hoped it was the former. He hated the thought that she might be hoping he was going to confess some kind of romantic affection. That would make everything so much worse.

“Um,” he started, and swallowed hard. “You and me, it’s--”

She nodded for him to continue.

“Believe me, I tried. I wanted to--” He broke off and took a deep breath. He couldn’t find the right words. No matter what he said, he had the feeling that he’d be breaking her heart. “Merlin, I’ve been such a git. I’m sorry.”

Hermione stared at him in confusion.

“I don’t understand.”

Of course she didn’t. His explanation made no sense at all.

“If... If I could be with a--,” he blundered on. “If I could...,” he stammered, “It would be you. I’m really, really sorry. I wish-- But I can’t help it.”

Come on, Ron, he admonished himself. Find the words. She deserves a straight explanation.

But he was spared that responsibility. Being the brightest witch of her age, and knowing him, and loving him, she figured it out. He watched understanding wash over her face, replacing concern and confusion with shock. Please don’t hate me, he thought. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

She sat down abruptly in the nearest chair, as if her legs were suddenly too weak to support her. He stood before her, waiting with his heart in his throat. She was one of his best friends. He was terrified of losing her.

“...Oh,” she said after a moment.

“Hermione, I--”

“It’s all right, Ron.”

He shook his head. “No, it’s not.”

She smiled ruefully, and when she spoke her voice caught a bit. “Okay, it’s not.”

“Look, I won’t blame you if you hate me,” he said earnestly. “I shouldn’t’ve kept it a secret. I shouldn’t’ve let you feel like maybe I...”

Hermione reached out and took his hand in hers. She tugged gently, and he sat down in the chair next to her, which was up alongside it. Tentatively, he put his arm around her shoulder. She pressed her face against his chest and sniffed a few times. He had no idea what to do. A crying girl in general would dumbfound him, but he had just broken this one’s heart, and she was turning to him for comfort?

He spent the next few minutes awkwardly rubbing his hand along her arm while she cried softly into his shirt. He found, to his surprise, that his eyes stung a bit, too. He hated himself for doing this to her. He blinked back the beginnings of tears.

Soon, though, she sat up and wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“I...” He cursed his own inability to form a coherent explanation. “I dunno. I kept thinking that maybe it would go away or something, I guess. It’s not like I was going to be able to... Not with anyone at Hogwarts anyway.”

He thought of Malfoy and everything that had happened with him. Of how unbelievable it all was, even now. If not for Malfoy, maybe Ron could’ve been happy with Hermione. She loved him. He loved her too, though not in that way. He might’ve made it work somehow.

But she deserved more than that. She deserved someone who’d really love her, the way a wizard ought to love a witch. And he wanted to be able to feel that way, too, for someone he could be attracted to as well as care about. He didn’t let himself think about whether or not that could ever be Malfoy.

“We’re your friends, Ron,” Hermione said, more kindly than he deserved. “I’m your friend. You can tell me anything.”

Ron swallowed, his voice feeling thick. “I’m sorry.”

“It can’t have been easy,” she said, in far too sympathetic a manner. She smiled, though rather sadly, as if to show him that she understood. Ron felt he didn’t deserve her understanding, but he was glad to have it anyway.

They sat in companionable silence, until Hermione finally spoke again.

“So,” she began, a playful glint in her eye, “is there...someone special?”

He blanched, and she giggled.

“I--”

Seeing how stiff and awkward he became, she laughed harder. It had never felt so good to hear her laugh.

“It’s, um... complicated.” Merlin, it really was. She had no idea.

“Fair enough,” she said, “but don’t blame me if I find out. I am the smartest witch of my age, after all.” Her eyes grew a little sad again then, but she put on a brave face. She was a true Gryffindor.

There was a bit of an awkward silence but it wasn’t painful. Finally, Ron spoke. “Are you all right?”

She looked up at him. “It’ll take a bit of time, but I will be.”

That was more than fair. He hesitated to ask his next question. “Are we all right?”

She smiled and squeezed his hand.

“Of course we are.”

*****

Neither Harry nor Hermione brought up the subject again before the end of term. He was very grateful for that. It was a relief in some ways that they knew now, but he wasn’t ready to discuss it at length. And he certainly didn’t want to say anything that might indicate who he was seeing. Ron had a feeling that it would be a very long time before he was willing to admit that.

Because of this, he avoided Malfoy for the rest of the term. He was surprised, and a bit hurt, that after Ron turned down a few his advances, Malfoy went back to pretending that nothing had ever happened. The only real change was that he was more of a git than usual, especially to Hermione. Thankfully, she didn’t make any connection there, and she was more than capable of brushing off Malfoy’s insults now.

Exams came and went, and all of the seventh years (technically eighth years, Ron supposed) finally had time to digest the fact that they would soon be leaving Hogwarts forever. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, having already spent a year as adults outside it, felt better prepared than many of their classmates, though Hermione did seem a bit sad at the thought of no longer being in school.

The end of term feast was delicious, and Ron felt like he re-realized with every bite that it would probably be the last meal he’d ever have at Hogwarts, apart from a hasty breakfast the next day.

And then it was the next day, and they were packed, and in the carriages driving away from their home of seven years and toward Hogsmeade Station.

The train ride was mostly a blur. Ron, Harry, Hermione, and Ginny talked of their plans for the next year, though Ginny was a bit annoyed that she still had one to go. Harry promised that he’d write a lot, and visit if he were allowed to. Ron teased Harry a bit about robbing the cradle, but it was all very good-natured. They all couldn’t wait to get back to the Burrow (Hermione was stopping there before going home to her parents for a while) and put off thinking about the future for a bit longer. They deserved a good long rest, after all!

As Ron neared the door of the train car, someone shoved past him and wrenched his shoulder painfully.

“Watch it,” a familiar voice said irritably as the boy stepped onto the platform and turned to face Ron. No matter how many times he baited him, Malfoy always seemed to be able to make Ron furious when he wanted to. The heat rose in his face and he bit back an angry retort. It wasn’t worth it.

Ron stepped onto the platform and stormed past Malfoy. Harry, Hermione, and Ginny must be pulling their trunks from the luggage van.

“Weasley,” Malfoy called from behind him, and Ron stopped in his tracks.

He stood immobile, struggling internally. Should he turn back? He could keep walking, away from the train and out of Malfoy's life. Malfoy probably didn't want to have anything to do with him anymore. Ron might just be giving him a chance to get in one last insult before they parted ways, possibly forever. And yet, something inside him, something beyond his control, moved his feet and swiveled him around to face Malfoy for the last time.

They looked at each other. Ron waited expectantly, bracing himself for another insult. But rather than a sneer or a cocky smirk on Malfoy's face, there was an enigmatic smile. Then, unbelievably, he spoke three words that made Ron's mouth go dry and something within him flutter with hope:

"See you around."

 


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