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Resting With The Enemy

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Ron was used to people who had a capacity for obsession. Merlin knew Harry got preoccupied with things: Malfoy, Snape, Dumbledore. Hermione’s fanatical tendencies were legend. Lavender and Parvati told stories about her note-filing system, and the way she shrieked if they hurt it, at every Gryffindor party. And even before that, obsessive-compulsive Percy and the anarchic, focussed twins and Bill with his maps of the Valley of the Kings had taught Ron about obsession.

He’d never seen it like this.

Malfoy was dead on his feet. He slept alone in the dungeons – he was the sole Slytherin who’d dared to return and help rebuild Hogwarts, and besides everyone else was camping in the Great Hall. So every morning he’d stumble from the gloomy depths and stagger to the breakfast table. He always sat silent, drooping over his plate, corpse-pale and dazed and with ruffled hair.

But then Hermione would bustle over. She was always bright-eyed, thriving on her study and obscure spellwork. Her robes were permanently dusted with plaster, and she pinned her bushy hair back with hairpins that would make a break for it throughout the day.

The sight of her made Ron’s heart squeeze a little with sweet regret. She’d pin up the schedule for the day, and Malfoy would stride over, his stumbles already melting away, his clouded grey eyes going bright as he looked for the details.

Hermione would sit with Dean, and Ron would chat with Harry and Ernie, and Su would flirt outrageously with Neville. The volunteers lingered over breakfast, talking and reading papers and laughing. By then Malfoy would’ve been working for forty-five minutes.

He went all day, shying away from offers of tea or company. His suspicious, almost wild-eyed response to any friendliness reminded Ron of a wild animal, and the half-hearted friendliness the others attempted melted away in response. Malfoy kept going, focussed and talented, with an unexpected facility for fixing magical mechanisms, until the shadows were long and the students yawning.

It couldn’t go on like this. For one thing, Harry had saved Malfoy’s life, and Ron wasn’t going to let that heart-stopping terror in the Room of Requirement go to waste. Which it definitely would if this carried on: Malfoy looked like an Inferi already. He was grey from exhaustion, but his eyes were bright with obsession as he cast and cast and cast, and Hogwarts shifted back into place around him.

Three weeks in, he wasn’t there at breakfast. Ron frowned at the empty place, and went to look for him.

He found Malfoy sprawled on his back, eyes shut and head tipped back to expose his throat, by the Entrance Hall’s stairs. Ron didn’t acknowledge how his heart went into his throat at the sight; he simply rushed over, drawing his wand.

“Malfoy? Enervate!”

Malfoy stirred, and then opened his eyes. They were narrow and blurry with sleep. “Lea’ me alone.”

“You fell asleep,” Ron realised. “You kept working last night until you collapsed with exhaustion, you’ve got to stop this, Malfoy.”

“What?” Malfoy blinked his heavy eyes. Their pale grey was lighter than ever against the purple-black of the bags under them.

Ron didn’t know why he’d noticed that. But this was ridiculous; Malfoy’s tiredness made him look bruised, made him look dazed and pale and anxious. Ron wasn’t putting up with this bollocks. Voldemort was gone, nobody was victimising him any more; Malfoy had to stop stumbling around like a Victorian consumptive.

“You’ve got to stop this,” he said firmly. “You need to slow down, Malfoy. Nobody expects you to work this hard.”

And suddenly Malfoy didn’t look like a Victorian consumptive any more, because his tired eyes were flashing and he was getting his hands under him, pushing himself to his feet.

Hardworking and ferocious: ferocious in his work ethic, even. Ron had seen those traits in him before, but not combined and not like this. The realisation left him blinking silently at Malfoy while the other boy snarled.

“I don’t care what you expect, Weasley. Typical bloody Gryffindor arrogance, thinking that the only reason I can be here is for your approval! Your forgiveness can’t make anything better. And anyway I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and I certainly don’t need to be rescued from making my own decisions you pathetic little peasant, I – ”

His voice was hoarse with exhaustion.

“Clearly you do, Malfoy, or you wouldn’t be in this state. Honestly. If my mum saw you you’d wish you’d never skipped a meal or an hour’s sleep in your life.”

Malfoy made a face. His expression half-twisted in a sneer, but Ron wasn’t capable of being angry with him when he was so red-eyed and almost swaying with exhaustion; there was no point. “Luckily your mother will never see me, will she, the fat – ”

Dormio.”

Malfoy collapsed, elbows everywhere. Ron caught him before he hit the floor. Then he stood in the Great Hall with an armful of softly snoring blond and wondered if his mother’s habit of feeding any remotely hungry-looking child who crossed her path was perhaps an inheritable trait.

Slightly altered, of course. He just wanted Malfoy to sleep, because otherwise he was going to do a spell wrong and bring the slightly shaky castle crashing about their heads. It wasn’t about looking after him.

Although now Ron had his arms around Malfoy’s waist, he was aware that he could feel Malfoy’s ribs, bruisingly hard against his forearm. There was no spare flesh on him anywhere, really; it wasn’t just exhaustion making his cheeks look hollow.

After sleep, Ron should make sure he ate. All this rushing about instead of meals couldn’t be helping the situation. Ron remembered Malfoy’s exhausted, thin look from sixth year (well, mainly he remembered Harry going on about it) and scowled unconvincingly down at the nape of Malfoy’s neck. So, a bit of stress and Malfoy started going without food or sleep and stumbling about like he was dying of TB. Bloody Blacks and their melodrama.

Ron got an arm out from under Malfoy, feeling Malfoy’s body slump further against his. He did a Lightening Charm, then somehow – with much awkwardness and misapplication of elbows – got Malfoy into his arms.

It didn’t seem right to levitate him, somehow. That was what Aurors did with criminals. Malfoy wasn’t a criminal, and Ron wasn’t an Auror, and the war was over. They didn’t have to try to be ruthless adults any more.

Ron was almost at the Great Hall when he realised he didn’t know the Slytherin password, and there weren’t any other Slytherins he could ask. He certainly wasn’t going to wake Malfoy to ask: Dormio wasn’t like Stupefy. Malfoy would’ve woken by now if he didn’t need the sleep.

Right. Ron shrugged to himself – promptly regretting it when he nearly dropped Malfoy – and turned for the stairs. He’d take him up to Gryffindor, where at least Malfoy could sleep on a proper sofa instead of the floor. And Ron could fix things up there, and maybe try a few of those esoteric spells Hermione had taught him – the ones that got the Ravenclaw boys all hot under the collar, and made them start babbling about Arithmancy’s double equations.

Not that Ron had anyone to show them off to.

~*~

Ron spilled Malfoy onto a sofa in the Gryffindor common room: he was damned if he was carrying him up a spiral staircase.

Malfoy’s body hit the sofa limply, his limbs bouncing up a little as they hit it. Ron waited until he heard the wheezy intake of breath before he could turn away.

Ron wasn’t fool enough to leave Malfoy alone in the Gryffindor inner sanctum, so he started sorting out some of the destroyed furniture. They’d done the spells to hold the tower up and stop the wind whistling through the small, ragged hole that had been blasted in the wall of the second-year boys’ dormitory. But those spells created a sort of magical air-lock rather than permanent repair, and the furniture was destroyed. You couldn’t find a nice, squashy armchair in Gryffindor for love nor money.

It made sense: the big public spaces had to be their priority, for both safety and morale. It also left quite a bit of work for Ron to do, while he kept an eye on Malfoy.

Not that Malfoy seemed much of a threat just now. It was hard to think of someone as able to turn on you at any minute when they were so heavily asleep. Malfoy had barely moved for an hour, and his face was pressed against the sofa cushions. His pink mouth was slack, and he was drooling slightly.

A few years ago, this would’ve been a prime opportunity to draw things on Malfoy’s face and cast quiet hexes. Last year, Ron would’ve drawn his wand long ago. And this Malfoy wasn’t a new person. His thin, sly face was just the same as it had been in Malfoy Manor, when he’d stood by as Hermione was tortured. It didn’t look sweet in repose.

Malfoy didn’t look innocent. But he looked vulnerable, and that was enough.

Ron started casting: spells to mend cloth and send thread twining together to mend long rips, spells to strengthen wood and shift joints back into place, spells to clear away the lingering smell of fire. Maybe it was domestic, and not very impressive or important -- not like Malfoy’s elaborate work on the staircases, or Hermione’s strengthening of the very walls. But Ron thought it mattered. The squashy sofas of Gryffindor’s common room had always been one of his favourite things about Hogwarts; it was one of the things that made the vast, half-empty medieval castle feel like home.

He kept working while the sun moved, rays of light travelling from the corner with the burns Fred and George had left during their post-OWLs party until they hit Malfoy’s white-blond hair. Malfoy began to snuffle and shift as the light hit his closed eyes. Ron settled into a newly repaired armchair opposite the sofa and sat repairing cushions while he waited for Malfoy to wake. He tried to keep his eyes on his work, but Ron found his eyes straying back to Malfoy over and over again.

Malfoy’s face wasn’t slack from exhaustion any more, but he didn’t look peaceful. There was a deep frown on his pale face; he was almost wincing from the sunlight. It was weirdly fascinating to watch Malfoy sleep like a person. Like he was human instead of the pale avatar of everything Ron didn’t like about himself.

Malfoy snuffled, then groaned a little under his breath. Ron was busy nearly stitching his thumb into a cushion by accident, so he didn’t look up until he heard, “Weasley?”

“Um.”

“What - where - what the hell did you do?” Malfoy staggered upright, clawing for his wand. Ron congratulated himself for his foresight in removing it from Malfoy’s pocket.

“Calm down, Malfoy.”

“Where are we?”

“Gryffindor common room.”

“You kidnapped me and brought me -- ”

“Oi, I didn’t kidnap you! You needed to sleep, you nutter, so I cast Dormio and brought you up here for a nap. Nice comfy sofa to snooze the day away while I fixed things up in here.”

Malfoy cast an expressive look around the Gryffindor common room. It didn’t look very fixed, Ron had to admit. But there were some nice places to sit while you took in the chaos.

“You don’t decide when I need to sleep, you overbearing sod.” There was a spot of pink on each of Malfoy’s cheeks, which was a danger sign. “I’m not -- ”

“All right,” Ron interrupted. “Fine. I solemnly swear I will never forcibly make you have a nap ever again, even if you pass out from exhaustion because you work for sixteen hours a day and then apparently go back to Slytherin and party all night. Or,” he said with sudden suspicion, “spend half the night fixing Slytherin up, too.” Malfoy’s expression told him he was right. “Merlin’s saggy bollocks, you really do need looking after, Malfoy.”

Malfoy’s face was a picture.

“I’ve become my mother,” Ron said with a groan, collapsing backwards into his armchair. “Worse. At least she only took nice orphans with good manners.”

“Potter does not have better manners than I do.”

“Yes he does, because he considers other people’s feelings, and you only consider them as target practice.”

“Give me my wand!”

“All right,” said Ron, because he wouldn’t want to be wandless in the Slytherin common room either. “But if you hex me I will hex you back, and I’ll tell your parole officer and McGonagall and Hermione.”

Malfoy made a face like he’d bitten into a lemon that was also full of poison. But when Ron handed him his wand (with his own wand firmly in hand, just in case) Malfoy’s expression relaxed a little. Then he stormed out.

The sound of the portrait hole slamming closed brought back oddly nostalgic memories of fighting with Hermione. Ron leant back against his armchair and closed his eyes, giving a long sigh. Under the lingering reek of smoke he could smell old armchairs and parchment.

What on earth was he doing?

***

That evening he asked Hermione if she’d rejig the schedules and put him with Malfoy. She looked at him like he’d announced he wanted to be the next Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, which was entirely fair.

“I have a good reason. Promise.”

“A good enough reason to work with Malfoy? He’s working on the staircases, you know,” Harry pointed out. “Lots of opportunities to push you down one and make it look like an accident.”

“And if you start a fight with him McGonagall will kick you out,” said Hermione. “We can’t lose you, Ron.”

The bitter tang of guilt rose in Ron’s throat. He was sure she hadn’t meant the accusation he heard in we can’t lose you, hadn’t intended the shadow of again that followed it. Either way, it only made him more determined.

“I’m not going to start a fight with him. I’m trying to stop him from going crazy and killing everyone when the sleep madness claims him. He looks half-dead.”

“Better than the three-quarters dead he looked in sixth year,” said Harry.

“True,” Hermione said.

“Please please pleeeeease?” Ron turned his very best begging eyes on Hermione. Just as she always had with his Transfigurations homework, she gave in.

“All right. I will once again change the schedule to match the fleeting whims of you lot.”

“Thank you!” Ron seized her in a nearly violent hug. He was determined that they were going to be easy friends again; they weren’t going to be scared of physical contact.

Hermione squeezed him back like an anaconda. A very loving anaconda.

***

Malfoy, on the other hand, looked more like a cobra when Ron met him at the stairs the next morning. A cobra that was ready to spit.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to help you with the moving staircases,” Ron said in a determinedly cheery tone. “You’ve been doing most of them alone, it’s crazy.”

“It’s efficient,” Malfoy informed him. “I don’t have anyone to slow me down.”

“Right, but this whole project’s not just about efficiency, right?” Ron took in the look in Malfoy’s pale eyes and decided not to go into Hermione’s theories about community healing and the symbolic value of Hogwarts, or why Harry had been so bloody-minded on the subject of having at least one Slytherin to help rebuild the school. “If it was about speed you wouldn’t have been adding those twiddly bits everywhere.”

“Those ‘twiddly bits’,” Malfoy said icily, “are imbued with protective magic.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. If -- if something happened, like in sixth year,” Malfoy said, his tone so controlled and even it sounded half-mad, “the protections at the doors wouldn’t help. They didn’t help. It can’t just be protection at the doors and walls and windows, it has to keep working once they get in.”

Ron made a listening sort of noise and drew his wand. Malfoy was so busy explaining this theory of his that he didn’t pause when Ron started fixing the cracks in the stone of their current staircase.

“So it’s building layers of protection, like a bunch of chess pieces arrayed around the king,” Ron said. He peacefully listened to Malfoy’s vehement explanation about why that was a stupid metaphor, and kept casting.

***

It was oddly like being around Hermione, if Hermione did nasty but unfairly funny impressions of people and their interpersonal tension was about attempted murders instead of not kissing any more. Their work on the staircases was steady, and Malfoy was weirdly good at fixing up broken magic and working out how spells had gone wonky. Ron, however, was forced to admit that this stuff wasn’t his strength. At all. He could do it -- fixing cracks and chips, making the stairs move again, clearing rubble -- but he was slow and awkward and unsure. Ron spent a lot of time with his shoulders round his ears, waiting for Malfoy to make fun of him.

But Malfoy didn’t seem to notice; he was so wrapped up in his own spells he barely seemed to hear Ron talk. Occasionally Ron stopped just to watch him work. It felt weird - almost voyeuristic, actually, watching Malfoy’s still, focussed face, the thin line between the blond brows, the grey eyes taking in every detail of his work, unselfconscious. But it was amazing to watch.

And he liked that Malfoy was letting things be different. Working with Ernie and Su, Ron had noticed their passion for making things the same, for putting Hogwarts back exactly as it was. And he liked the comfort in that idea, but -- Hogwarts wasn’t as it was. Nothing was. He liked that Malfoy was giving the castle new grooves to settle into, instead of trying to make it the same as it was before the war came here. New patterns on the stairs.

“Focus!” Malfoy snapped. “What are you even doing?”

“Er,” Ron said, and then the angle of the sunlight glowing off Malfoy’s pale hair gave him something to say. “It’s time for a break, don’t you think? Shall we go and have a biscuit and a cup of tea with the others?”

“You go,” Malfoy said, turning back to the bannister that was currently growing wooden patterns of branches and blossoms, like Malfoy had reminded it how to be alive. “I’ll get more done without you mouth-breathing next to me.”

“Nope,” said Ron cheerfully. “You won’t get anything done. Breaktime!”

“Just because you can’t focus for more than ten minutes -- ”

“Breaks are important, they revive your brain. Ask Hermione about it, she worked out the optimum amount of breaktime you should take when you’re revising.”

“That swot -- ”

“You should talk,” Ron said, and cast a barrier between Malfoy and the staircase. Malfoy yelped and snarled and tried to break it, but this was one spell Ron had down cold.

He smiled to himself. Malfoy had insulted Hermione and the insult he’d reached for was swot.

The Great Hall was full of chatter when they entered. The chatter didn’t stop, but it paused; Malfoy’s stride went stiff and so did his shoulders. Ron cast a glare Hermione’s way and the talk swelled again.

“Tea or coffee?” Ron asked.

“Tea.”

Ron poured it, and handed Malfoy a mug and a couple of biscuits. Malfoy didn’t thank him. He did follow Ron over to Harry and Hermione, though, and didn’t even make a face as Ron launched into a spirited discussion of the Cannons’ chances in the coming season and the transfer market.

Ron found himself monitoring Malfoy, even as he and Cho argued over how much the Tornadoes’ Keeper was worth. Malfoy was sitting very still, like they somehow wouldn’t notice a tall white-blond Slytherin in their midst if he didn’t talk. (Or maybe he thought they wouldn’t recognise him if he didn’t run his mouth off, which was perhaps a less insane strategy.) Harry was glowering at him from under thick black brows. Ron didn’t think it was rage or hate or anything so much as terminal confusion but he didn’t know if Malfoy knew that. All he knew was that the atmosphere between Harry and Malfoy was bristling with unsaid things. This might not be the best way to get Malfoy to relax.

So when lunchtime rolled around, Ron went downstairs -- he wasn’t sure Malfoy even noticed -- and came back with ham sandwiches and pumpkin juice. They sat on the nearly-finished stairs together and munched.

Ron was on his third sandwich and mourning the lack of mustard when Malfoy said acidly, “I take it your friends didn’t want me back for lunch. Or at all.”

Ron shrugged. “You can’t really blame them. You did bring Death Eaters here. If they forgive you and decide to trust you it’s gonna be in their own time.”

“What about you?”

Ron thought Malfoy might mean, do you trust me or are you doing this to keep an eye on me? but he took the question at face value. “When you have brothers like -- like Fred and George, you get used to trusting people you shouldn’t. Also to being poisoned.”

Malfoy laughed and then looked sort of appalled at himself. Ron grinned.

Malfoy very quietly said “I’m sorry.”

He kind of apologised to his ham sandwich, and it was half-mumbled, so for a second Ron wasn’t even sure what he’d said. Merlin, this was all a bit heavy. He hadn’t been thinking about whether he forgave or trusted Malfoy when he started this, just that he didn’t want him to kill himself with work, but -

“I know you are. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know that, or rather, you wouldn’t be.” And this was all getting into some very dodgy territory so Ron stood up and suggested they get back to work.

They finished that staircase that afternoon, and moved on to a tiny fiddly little spiral staircase at the end of the Charms corridor. Ron thought he was getting better with the spells, even if he was still embarrassingly crap. That wasn’t the point though. He was on a mission, he was here to fix steps and stop Malfoy dying of being an idiot. And that was going better.

He noticed Malfoy wilting at around six, so Ron put up a barrier again. Malfoy scowled at him, but nothing more than that -- he must really have been exhausted.

Over the next week or so, Malfoy came back from the brink of collapse. He looked less hollow-eyed and hollow-cheeked, and less blankly exhausted when he wasn’t aiming ferocious concentration at Hogwarts’ broken places. Ron felt a little sunburst of success in his chest.

“Malfoy looks better, doesn’t he?” he said to Harry over apple strudel after dinner one night. “Less madness round the eyes.”

Harry eyed him uncertainly. “Yeah, he does.”

“Which is good,” said Hermione carefully. “But, Ron, the thing with Malfoy - it’s fine, it’s good, we wanted a Slytherin...”

“And Hermione’s madly busy researching spells and doing the rota, and if I talk to him we’ll have a screaming match about Snape like when I gave him his wand,” Harry said. “It’s great. He really did look awful. But…”

They both paused, having trailed off, looking at him with slightly anxious eyes. Ron beamed at them, suddenly enormously grateful to have them both there.

“He obviously can’t look after himself, and there’s no one here to do it for him,” he said. “And we almost died in fiery horror to rescue him and Goyle, I’m not letting him die now just because he’s stubborn.”

Harry and Hermione laughed, then exchanged a private look in which they seemed to decide that was reason enough. Conversation moved on to whether Ginny was going to come up before the end of the summer, and then to teasing Harry about the very long letters he was writing her when he thought they were asleep.

Ron left barriers over their work that weekend, and Malfoy rolled his eyes but didn’t fight him. When he came up to the Great Hall for lunch on Sunday, Ron asked him if he wanted to play chess. The table erupted into noise, laughter and challenges and warning Malfoy off.

“Don’t listen to them,” Ron said. “Just because they’re cowards who won’t play me anymore…”

Malfoy grinned, slow and sharp. “Well, I wouldn’t want to show up the Gryffindors for cowards. Obviously.”

They finished their lunch then played on Ron’s little portable set, laughing lazily under the afternoon sun. Everyone else chatted, played their own games, or read, occasionally looking up to comment on the game as it progressed and tease. The game took two hours; it was the first time in a while that Ron had had the chance to stretch himself at chess. The black pieces, after early suspicion, had clearly decided to trust Malfoy - he was autocratic with them, ignoring the left bishop’s shouted suggestions, but he was also good.

Ron spent the last twenty minutes of the game huddled over the board, his head almost brushing Malfoy’s. Malfoy’s grey eyes had gone narrow and focussed; it was rather nice to see that expression over something less serious than fixing Hogwarts. Ron found himself watching Malfoy’s pale hands as they moved the pieces, or flexed as he thought through his moves. He wasn’t sure why.

They gathered a catcalling audience as Ron closed in and the debris of fallen pieces piled up on both sides of the board. When Ron won, he leant back and stretched, shaking out his long limbs after hunching over the board, and said “checkmate” slow and satisfied as the stretch of a cat in the sun. Malfoy looked simultaneously like he was having a lot of fun and like he wanted to throw the board at Ron’s head. Ron enjoyed that. It was a good look on him.

“A rematch is coming, Weasley.”

“Excellent,” Ron said cheerfully, high-fiving Harry. “I need someone good to play against.”

Malfoy smiled like he thought he’d got a concession from him. “So you think I’m good?”

“Absolutely,” said Ron. “Which makes it much more fun to totally crush you.”

At that point Malfoy picked up his queen and threw it at Ron, which Ron really should’ve seen coming.

The following week Ron stole Hermione’s Prophet and brought the sports pages along for their break, along with tea and chocolate biscuits. Ron sat a few stairs down from Malfoy and read most of an article about how the Arrows were doomed next season aloud. Malfoy was an Applebys supporter and made increasingly furious noises.

“Oh, and look, the new manager appears to substitute money for heart and hair oil for actual hair - ” Ron said, his voice wavering as he tried not to laugh.

“We’ll still finish above the Cannons, so you can laugh it up when we win three hundred to one against your team!”

“Says who?” said Ron, shoving Malfoy.

Malfoy froze, grey eyes uncertain, and Ron swore internally as tension came rushing back. He hadn’t meant it like that - it was like shoving Charlie when he was annoying, or hitching his shoulder against Harry’s to say hello. A casual touch. Fuck. He’d made a move like they were fighting, and a shove was usually the start of something ugly between them, and Malfoy looked like he wasn’t even breathing.

For a few seconds, everything was charged but still, like the air before a thunderstorm. Then Ron gave Malfoy’s knee a gentle push. “Bastard.”

Malfoy stared at Ron very intensely for another few seconds. It was the same ferocious look Malfoy gave bits of Hogwarts architecture when he was trying to work them out, and it unsettled Ron a bit. Then Malfoy pushed Ron back.

Ron burst out laughing, and Malfoy did too, the sound tinged with relief.

Ron had started to bring up Malfoy in his evening conversations with the other volunteers. It was natural, he supposed; he spent most of his day with Malfoy, and they talked more and more. But Ernie and the others made slightly weird faces when Ron mentioned that funny thing Malfoy had said - he was weirded out himself. The fifth time he mentioned Malfoy’s opinion in a night, he caught Harry nudging Hermione. She bit her lip and buried her head in a book instead of commenting. Ron knew how hard that must’ve been for her, and he found her eight of her favourite orange sweets out of the mixed box in appreciation - Hermione was enough of a rebel to like the sugariest sweets best, the ones her parents thought should be marked with a skull and crossbones.

Malfoy kept getting better, more bright-eyed and healthy-looking. He was with it enough to tease Ron about his hair and the Cannons’ disastrous purchase of a Turkish Keeper with an atrocious goal record. He stopped fighting Ron about breaks and stopping work around six.

But then Malfoy stopped improving. He didn’t look pallid and half-dead the way he had before, constantly on the edge of collapsing or making a disastrous hash of some spell. But the purple smudges under his eyes were still there, and he drooped over dinner more than the others. He didn’t spend much time in the Great Hall with the other volunteers, even now. He’d stay there for the hour between finishing work and dinner; he’d started to talk more, to do impressions again. The imitations were less cruel now, and Malfoy was rather less on his dignity in front of them if the impression of Crookshanks was any indication. But then after dinner, Malfoy headed back to Slytherin each night.

That hadn’t really bothered Ron; he spent his nights talking and playing cards and helping everyone work through the enormous box of sweets Bill had sent. But now he was growing suspicious. Maybe Malfoy, having got his feet under him a little, was now sleeping less again so he could work on fixing the dungeons. Stubborn little bastard.

They’d moved near the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower, repairing crumbling stone and broken sconces. At eleven, Ron went for tea as usual. He brought back ginger biscuits, Malfoy’s favourite.

Ron waited until Malfoy was on his second biscuit before he said, “so how’s Slytherin going? Are you still working on it?”

Malfoy made a sour face and swallowed a mouthful of biscuit. “Why, Weasley, d’you want to help?”

Ron cringed. “Er… well. I mean I don’t know what it’s meant to look like, or anything. I don’t think I… D’you want me to?”

“Oh never mind, Weasley.” Malfoy was huddled over his tea, not looking at him. “Why don’t you go and have your break with your actual friends? I’m sure Potter’s withering away for the lack of you.”

Ron rolled his eyes. They bickered over this at least twice a week, and he rather felt Malfoy should by now trust him to know his own mind. “I think he’ll survive.”

“Well he did when you left him and Granger in the forest, so probably.”

Ron felt his whole body seize up from shock. Malfoy looked up, looking startled himself at what had come out of his mouth.

“Don’t talk about that, you have no idea what happened.”

“As if any of the people writing letters about how I shouldn’t be here have a fucking clue what happened to me.”

“That’s not the point, Malfoy,” Ron said, desperately grasping for calm. How had their regular tiny argument gone snarling and angry with no apparent steps in between? “You were happy to take the Mark. You don’t get to use what happened in the forest against me when at the time you were hiding in your Manor with Mummy and Daddy torturing people for Voldemort. And I do know what happened..”

Malfoy’s face screwed up in anger, his eyes going small and bright and pained. He snarled, “maybe you abandon your people to the Dark Lord, Weasley, but I’m not like that.”

Ron stood up and Malfoy flinched. Taken aback, Ron stared at him for a second, then stormed off.

He found Hermione’s specialised crew in the library, who were repairing the ravaged collection or putting texts aside for the experts. Hermione took one look at his expression and said, “Malfoy?”

Fucking Malfoy.”

“All right. D’you want to work on the broken windows there?”

Ron huffed out a breath and smiled at her for understanding. “Thanks.”

He worked alone for the next couple of hours, churning it all in his mind. He felt surprised and hurt, and stupid for feeling that way when the vast majority of his interactions with Draco Malfoy had involved Malfoy saying horrible things. But the argument had come out of nowhere, and then they were back in the same pattern, tearing at each other’s weak points.

Malfoy had definitely started it though. Bastard. Ron had been trying to help him and they’d been getting on and then all of a sudden Malfoy just reverted to form. Why was Ron even trying?

He looked up and realised he’d been automatically making the windows leaded in a complicated pattern of diamonds and squares - the one Malfoy had taught him.

He growled to himself.

Malfoy didn’t appear at dinner that night until it was almost over, and then he sat down one end of the table like he’d done for the first few weeks. He’d been sitting by Ron mostly, before this, and doing his annoyingly funny impression of Minister Shacklebolt meeting Rita Skeeter.

He vanished to the dungeons as quickly as he’d come. For a moment Ron imagined following him to his horrible underground common room and punching him in the face.

Following him to Slytherin. Had he been serious about asking Ron to help fix it?

Ron huffed and threw his head back. You’re an idiot, Malfoy.

Maybe Ron was too. But Malfoy was definitely worse.

“You sound like the Hogwarts Express, huffing and puffing,” said Dean. “Lovers’ quarrel?”

“Get bent, Thomas.” Ron looked at the empty doorway to the dungeons again and sighed. “It’s nothing.”

 

When Ron appeared the next morning, Malfoy went frozen and horrified for a long moment. Ron looked back at him, tongue-tied. Then Malfoy blinked, releasing Ron from his pale-eyed stare, and went back to fixing the frames of two portraits. Their subjects seemed to have evacuated the paintings while Malfoy worked; they showed empty studies, one with a steaming cup of something left on the desk.

Ron took up his position next to Malfoy, fixing the sconces and checking the walls for structural damage. “You skipped breakfast,” he said, trying to sound casual.

“I wasn’t hungry.” Malfoy’s voice was stiff. Ron glanced at him and his face was stiff, too; unnaturally expressionless and pale, he looked like a china doll.

Ron looked away, and kept working.

“I didn’t think you’d come back,” Malfoy said eventually.

“We’re still meant to be working together. If I disrupt the rota again Hermione’ll have my head.”

Malfoy nodded, wordless, and went back to not looking at him.

It took all of ten minutes for Ron to lose his patience. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re what?”

“You heard me,” Ron said, annoyed, before registering the shock in Malfoy’s tone. “Look, I shouldn’t have said all that.”

Malfoy blinked at him.

“Aren’t you going to apologise to me?” said Ron. “You should.”

Malfoy looked confused. “Yeah. I mean, I shouldn’t have - I just said something stupid and then kept digging, and you’d really think I’d have learnt better than that by now. I am sorry, I just - I didn’t think you’d…”

“You’re such an only child, Malfoy. People can have a fight and get over it.”

Malfoy made an annoyed noise. “I know. It’s just, I dunno...” He turned back to his portraits, ducking his head. “I’m not… I think I forgot about making mistakes people can forgive me for.”

“That’s - come on, Malfoy, you did awful things but you were in an awful situation. Horrible isn’t the same as unforgivable.”

“Don’t say that,” Malfoy said, his voice sharp. “You know I did literal Unforgivable Curses, don’t you? And not just on other Death Eaters. I cast Imperius on Madam Rosmerta.”

“Because you thought your family’d be killed. And I -- ” Ron stumbled, throat closing, because he’d been about to talk about Fred.

“Yeah, but Weasley, you can’t forgive me. Not for any of the big stuff. I didn’t do it to you.”

“You’re right.”

Malfoy looked at him long enough to quirk his mouth in a quick grin. “Did it hurt to say that?”

“Little bit.” They both turned back to their work, casting spells amidst their conversation. They didn’t look at each other as they spoke, rebuilding their connection word by word like stringing beads along a wire. “And I know. The big things that happened to me… I didn’t even know who killed Fred until after he went to Azkaban.”

“I was lucky,” Malfoy said quietly. “You were lucky. Not because - I mean, I could’ve killed you. Could’ve poisoned you back in sixth year by mistake, and you would’ve been dead because of me before I ever knew what had happened.”

Ron shuddered.

“And I really shouldn’t’ve said that about your friends. My friends stayed with me right to the end. Well, almost. And then Vince - if I hadn’t brought him to the Room of Hidden Things, he wouldn’t’ve - ” Malfoy’s voice hitched. And at that vulnerability Ron couldn’t stop himself: he dropped his wand and turned to look at Malfoy and say something true.

“I’m really sorry, Malfoy. And I’m sorry we couldn’t save him.”

Malfoy shrugged a shoulder, not looking at him. “It was - he was the one who cast the Fiendfyre. I was the one who brought us there.”

“Yeah.” Ron’s chest hurt. This whole conversation hurt, and he was so out of his depth. “It’s still… just, I’m sorry.”

Malfoy met his eyes. Let Ron see the look in them. “Thanks.”

And apparently Ron never learnt, he’d keep doing stupid things until he died. Probably alongside Harry and Hermione. “Listen, d’you want some help with Slytherin? Maybe we can go down after dinner and you can show me what you’re working on.”

“You needn’t,” Malfoy said flatly.

“I know, but I thought - it’s crazy for you to try and do it all yourself. We’ll get to it eventually anyway, but if you’re rushing ahead with it I might as well help.”

“You don’t need to do this. You’ve made it quite clear you don’t want to visit Slytherin.”

“Yes, because I worried that some beastie would eat me. If you promise to protect me I’ll come.”

Malfoy laughed, looking pleased. “What makes you think this wasn’t my plan all along? Maybe I’ll promise, then we’ll see some dungeon monster and I’ll leave you to die.”

“Unlikely,” Ron decided. “I don’t think you’ve got the makings of an evil mastermind. Your evil plans were always along the lines of singing songs about me being born in a bin.”

“Weasley, you ingrate,” said Malfoy with theatrical outrage, “I could destroy you if I wanted to!”

“You couldn’t even do a good evil laugh.”

They went down to dinner with Malfoy still trying to prove him wrong. The Hufflepuffs looked badly startled by Malfoy’s squawking, squealy laugh. It made him sound like a pterodactyl with a hairball. Ron told him so and Malfoy got entertainingly enraged.

By the time they finished dinner, things between them seemed okay again. When Malfoy stood up as usual to withdraw to the dungeons, Ron followed him.

 

For all his bravado, Ron felt uneasy as he headed into the underground darkness. It wasn’t his territory, and the dungeons themselves seemed to know it; the portraits eyed him suspiciously, and every small unknowable sound made him jump. They were almost at the Slytherin common room now, and Ron only knew that because of old subterfuge.

Maybe this was how Malfoy felt all the time. The lone Slytherin, the Marked Death Eater, an interloper in a space that wasn’t meant for him.

Malfoy sped up as they neared the common room, and Ron followed the pale beacon of his hair in the gloom.

“Piacular,” Malfoy said, and the black stones scraped aside.

The common room was freezing, and there was slime down one wall. Probably where it was nearer the lake. There were scorchmarks all along one wall, and half-destroyed paintings hung emptily.

“D’you have something to say, Weasley?” Malfoy’s voice was acid.

“It’s just not what I was expecting,” Ron said, looking round. “You’ve been working on fixing up the dungeons at night, yeah?”

“Yes, but it’s not just the common room and dorms. I repaired the potions classroom first, and Snape’s storerooms and office.” Ron glanced at him, and Malfoy glared back. His shoulders were tense, everything about him spiky as a hedgehog.

“I’ll tell Harry,” said Ron. “He’ll be pleased to know you did that.”

“...All right. Anyway, I’ve done the boys’ dorms up to fourth year - they’ve only got a bit of damage - and the seventh-years’, obviously.”

Ron looked expressively at a blanket left on a battered green sofa. Malfoy flushed.

“It’s - you don’t - I can’t sleep there. I try and…”

It took Ron a moment to place his expression, it looked so different on Malfoy’s pointy pale face. Embarrassment. Maybe even shame.

“You can always come up and sleep in the Great Hall with the rest of us.”

Malfoy shook his head. “I can’t, I - I have nightmares.” He flushed a little. “I’m sure after a week everyone would want to kill me in my sleep. Even aside from, y’know, the obvious reasons.”

“Lots of us have nightmares, Malfoy,” Ron said gently. “And I shared a dorm with Harry for six years, all the Gryffindor boys are completely inured to people screaming in their sleep.”

Malfoy’s face screwed up, uncertain. Ron rather liked the way his nose scrunched, despite the way that anxious wrinkle in his forehead made Ron’s heart hurt a tiny bit. “But it’s… it’s different for me. I don’t want everyone to remember what I did all the time. I’m sure they do anyway, but it’s - I talk in my sleep, Greg complains about it all the time, and I don’t want everyone to hear me talking to the Dark Lord.”

“I can understand that.”

A few moments of silence passed; they weren’t tense, but somehow oddly charged. “What d’you want me to look at first?” Ron asked. At Malfoy’s expression, he said, “it’s your common room. You choose.”

“How about you start with the furniture? I remember when I woke up in Gryffindor after you kidnapped me - ” he kept talking over Ron’s snort - “you were fixing that up. You were good at it.”

Ron obeyed. He started small, irrationally worried that Slytherin furniture would react differently somehow - but as each armchair and uncomfortable dark chair huddled round a table took on its proper shape, as flaws vanished, he began to find his confidence. Malfoy was working on the fire damage, wand moving fluidly as the dark scorchmarks began to vanish under his spells.

There was something undeniably special about this. About being invited inside Malfoy’s space after having brought Malfoy unwillingly into his; about seeing how Malfoy moved around his home within Hogwarts. Ron didn’t stop them until late; Malfoy had lit the candles long ago, the light of the great fireplace catching in his pale hair.

He caught himself yawning, and realised it was almost ten. “Malfoy,” he said. “We should stop.”

“All right, goodnight.” Malfoy didn’t even look at him, let alone stop casting.

Ron put up a barrier between Malfoy and the painting he was working on, then had to duck as Malfoy’s charm bounced off it. Malfoy turned. “You’re maddening!”

“So Hermione tells me.”

“This is mine, it’s not one of the general jobs. Take that barrier off and leave me to it.”

“There’s no reason this should be yours alone to do. Besides, leaving you to it is how you ended up half-dead from exhaustion in the first place.”

“I’ll go to bed soon.”

“You don’t even sleep in your own bed!”

“It’s next to Vince’s bed,” Malfoy said, face pale and strained. “I can’t, all right? I just have nightmares about him. That I got him killed.”

“Malfoy,” Ron said quietly. He had no idea what to say next, but he couldn’t say nothing when Malfoy had that expression on his face.

“At least if I’m down here, I have different nightmares.”

“Sleep where you want, I just want to make sure you sleep. In fact - Malfoy, can I stay down here tonight?”

“Pardon?”

“Can I sleep here? I’ll just take one of the other sofas.” He shrugged awkwardly, embarrassed now that he was trying to explain his impulsive request; his inexplicable desire to look after Malfoy seemed more embarrassingly evident than ever. “It’d be nice, y’know, not to sleep in a room with thirty other people for once.”

“Okay.” Malfoy gave his slightly crooked smile. “It’d be nice not to sleep in a room alone for once.”

Ron went up to the Great Hall to find his Chudley Cannons duvet, his pyjamas, and his chess set. He told Harry and Hermione his plans for the night and Harry looked suddenly, forcefully Not Questioning Your Decisions. Hermione clearly tried to follow his lead, but broke.

Why, Ron? Why are you doing this? Are you okay? I’ve tried not to bother you about it, I have, but I don’t understand.”

Which was always painful for Hermione. “I know, and I’m sorry - I don’t really know why I’m doing it myself. It’s not a plan or anything, he just - in the moment I keep having this weird urge to look after him.”

“Great, but it’s not like there’s any danger to him down in Slytherin,” Harry said.

“I know. I think he’s worried about danger up here, actually, if he lets himself sleep around everyone.”

“Did he say that? Did someone threaten him?” Hermione asked, fire in her eyes.

“No, he hasn’t even said it to me, I just think it’s probably true. He still feels really guilty - ”

“He should! He brought Death Eaters here, he helped Voldemort - ”

“He helped us at Malfoy Manor,” said Harry. “And Luna said he tried to help her and Griphook and Ollivander, even if he didn’t help them escape.”

“Yeah. He wasn’t a hero, but it doesn’t help anyone if he’s convinced there’s no forgiveness and everyone hates him forever,” Ron said. “And - he suffered under Voldemort as much as anybody. More than most, probably. And he’s still so scared, and so guilty, and - ” he flushed, but he made himself say it, because with his friends he could say anything. “It’s like he was never really saved from Voldemort. Not really. And maybe I can do that.”

“He’s not a damsel in distress, Ron,” Hermione said.

“Not a what?”

“Sorry, Muggle reference. The point is - just, be careful.”

“I promise,” he told her, smiling.

“All right,” said Harry, and tossed him his wadded-up duvet. “Then let’s see what happens.”

When he came back down, Malfoy gestured to a sofa. “This one’s yours, it’s got the most stuffing. I moved both our sofas a bit closer to the fire. And if you want a glass of water - ”

Ron laughed, the sound echoing loud and warm in the near-empty stone room. “You don’t have to play the perfect host, y’know. I have a book, and my chess set. Want a rematch?”

Malfoy’s eyes lit up.

They played for almost an hour, and then Ron called a halt. “I’m tired, and you must be exhausted given how little you’ve been sleeping.”

“I’m fine,” muttered Malfoy. “You sound like my mother.”

“You’re blinking a lot, and you have bags under your eyes.”

“Fine! But don’t you dare touch that board, Weasley, I’ll take you down tomorrow.”

Malfoy showed him where the loos were, and Ron got changed. When he got back to the common room, he found Malfoy in deep blue pyjamas that were a bit too big for him. Ron bit down on every possible comment, aware of how his own pyjamas were too short, exposing a lot of wrist and ankle. “Night, Malfoy.”

“Night.”

Ron lay down on his sofa, under his own orange duvet. And entirely failed to go to sleep.

The room had seemed fairly comfortable before; it had firelight and comfy sofas and Ron’s chess set like the Gryffindor common room, and Malfoy moved around it so easily, knowing every inch of it. With the candles out and the fire banked, it was gloomier than before, and the shapes loomed strangely. Ron abruptly had a lot of empathy for Malfoy, because closing his eyes and going to sleep in Slytherin seemed crazy. And it was so oddly silent, the kind of silence that left Ron straining his ears for ominous noise. He was so used to sleeping amongst people - the continuous quiet racket of all his siblings or his dormmates, or the thirty-odd other volunteers spending their summer on Hogwarts.

He couldn’t possibly sleep. What was he going to do?

After what seemed a very long stretch of silence, Ron wasn’t any closer to dreamland. He reminded himself that there were no people in the damaged portraits to see him, and sat up silently. He wrapped his duvet round himself and sneaked across the floor, hissing through his teeth at the chill of stone on his bare feet.

There was a massive armchair next to Malfoy’s sofa.

Malfoy was huddled under a dark blanket. Only his face and one bare foot peeked out from underneath. He didn’t look peacefully innocent; his forehead was creased, mouth drawn down in a frown, as if sleep had only revealed his anxiety.

Ron arranged himself in the armchair, and fell asleep to the sound of Malfoy’s breathing.

 

He woke in time to put his duvet back on his original sofa and get dressed before breakfast. Malfoy was faintly grumpy as they headed up to breakfast together. Ron told him this was clearly because he hadn’t listened to Ron about the importance of sleep and Malfoy threw his toast at him. Ron peeled it off his cheek and licked the marmalade, grinning broadly at Malfoy and Neville’s sounds of disgust.

“We missed you,” Hermione said. “But it seems like it went okay.”

That evening Ron went back down with him. They made a decent dent in the common room; Ron thought they’d finish it by the weekend. Maybe he could even convince Malfoy to join them properly for Quidditch friendlies and cards, instead of Malfoy hanging out for an hour or two and then running away again.

Malfoy lost the chess match, but Ron thought they’d both had fun with it. And Ron’s chess pieces definitely seemed to like Malfoy - they barely complained at all when Malfoy continued his lifetime of being a sore loser by throwing them at Ron’s head.

Ron listed all the goblin names he could remember from History of Magic in his head, then tiptoed over to the armchair. It was uncomfortable for someone as tall as he was, but at least he didn’t feel alone in the cavernous (and quite possibly carnivorous) Slytherin common room.

Barely a minute after he’d fallen asleep, it seemed, Ron was pulled unwillingly into wakefulness. There was an odd, fevered muttering. He blinked, confused, at the dim, unfamiliar shapes of the room before he remembered - Slytherin common room. Malfoy.

He fumbled his way off the armchair to Malfoy, who was curled up under his blanket again, blond hair shadowing his face.

“No, ’m sorry. Please, my Lord…” He subsided into indecipherable muttering.

“Malfoy. Malfoy,” Ron hissed. Somehow speaking normally seemed impossible in the quiet of Slytherin. “Wake up.”

Even in the dim light, the terror on the sleeping face was clear.

“Draco,” Ron whispered. He shook Draco’s shoulder. Draco gave a low moan, twitching away from it. “It’s a nightmare, come on.”

He was still mumbling, and all Ron could distinguish was “sorry” again and again. He shook Draco again, harder. “Wake up!”

His sharper tone jerked Draco awake. Draco flinched away from Ron’s hand, and for a moment he stared at Ron with blankly frightened grey eyes, as if he didn’t recognise him.

“Draco?”

“Ron?”

“Yeah. You all right?”

“I’m fine.” Draco turned away. Apparently pulled out of nightmares, he wasn’t a good liar.

“You know I have them too, right?” Ron murmured. “Don’t go thinking you’re special.”

Draco laughed, low and a little croaky. “Never.”

“D’you wanna tell me about it? The dream?”

Draco shook his head. “I don’t really remember it. It’s all just a blur - people I hurt. The Dark Lord.”

“Mine have Voldemort too,” Ron said softly. “But usually it’s Harry and Hermione. Sometimes Fred, or my other brothers, or Ginny - but usually it’s that Harry and Hermione got killed when I left them in the forest.”

Draco gave a sharp intake of breath. Ron caught a glint of firelight in his pale lashes as he blinked. Their faces were close together, voices quiet in nighttime, even though there was no one else there to hear them. “You have nightmares too?”

“Of course. I think we all do. And about similar stuff - fear, guilt. It’s part of why I wanted to show you…”

“Show me?”

“Even if I don’t have the right to forgive you for your worst things… forgiveness can happen. It’s possible. My friends forgave me.”

“Vince can’t forgive me.” Draco’s voice was croaky with late-night emotion. “Maybe we could’ve forgiven each other, given time. I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry.”

There was a small silence. Then Draco shifted, making space for Ron on the sofa. Ron joined him, both of them curled into the warmth of their blankets. The cloth insulated them from the intimacy of their arms brushing, of voices after midnight.

“It helps, fixing Hogwarts. Maybe it pays back a bit of what I did, bringing the Death Eaters here.”

“I think it does.”

Malfoy bestowed a sudden, bright smile on him. Ron couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen that expression on Draco’s face. He blinked at it like he’d looked directly into the sun.

“It’s hard to know,” Ron said. “What it means in the end, what we did in the war. For who we are after this.”

“It’s why I don’t put things back just the way they were,” said Draco. “I have to believe that recovery can mean making things better than they were before.”

The conversation kept going, murmured comment by quiet confession, like flares repeating one after the other in the dark. Draco’s body slumped and softened against his as they talked, tactile intimacy that made sunshine glow in Ron’s chest inexplicably. Ron seemed to fall asleep between one comment and another.

He woke the next morning with his field of vision full of white-blond, his nose buried in the smell of Draco’s hair. Ron yawned and stopped himself from moving as he realised Draco was sleeping against him, head trustingly on Ron’s shoulder.

Draco had been woken already, though. He yawned and sat up straight, eyes sleep-blurred, warm and soft and close, and abruptly all the questions in the back of Ron’s mind about why Draco’s happiness seemed so important were answered.

Draco hesitated, his face inches from Ron’s, his eyes flickering over Ron’s face. Ron kissed him.

Draco slumped forward into Ron again as they kissed. It was slow and sleepy, but it sparked golden through Ron’s brain like sunshine, illuminating everything.

Eventually Draco pulled back. “I should, er. We should get dressed.”

“Yeah.” Ron kissed him again, one last touch of lips before he had to give this up for a few hours. He smiled to himself while he was getting dressed, and he smiled while they went up for breakfast. He should probably be anxious or wondering what this meant or what he was doing. But he wasn’t. The combination of sleep deprivation and the glory of that kiss had him fuzzily pleased with the world.

He avoided Hermione’s eyes as hard as he could. She was clever with emotions and he was worried she’d look at him and just know.

He avoided Draco’s eyes for some of breakfast too. Then they caught each other’s eye, looking at each other awkwardly. Draco’s uncertain expression blossomed into a smile. It was a weird, lovely mix of awkwardness and building tension. A perfect kind of tension.

They went up to their current project on the fourth floor. There was a moment of charged silence and then Draco kissed him. A lot.

Ron held on while Draco kissed along his lower lip, leaving Ron’s whole body quivering with awareness of Draco’s. The kisses continued, deeper and shudderingly good.

At some point one of the portraits coughed and they came up for air.

“She’s right,” Ron said, a little startled by how deep his voice had gone. “We should do some actual spellwork.”

“Yeah,” Draco said, watching his mouth.

They managed to get some work done, and Ron held off until half-past ten before announcing it was breaktime. Draco kissed him before he could leave for tea. They spent twenty minutes kissing slowly against the wall. Ron felt a frozen moment of deep embarrassment as his Perfectly Natural Reaction brushed against Draco’s hip. Draco paused, then moved against Ron with a pleased sound, and Ron discovered Draco was being Perfectly Natural too. He felt lust thump through him, and a blurred amount of time later lifted his head from Draco’s neck to find the sun had moved.

“We should really…”

“Precisely.” Draco adjusted his t-shirt. It did nothing to disguise the mark Ron had left or the disastrous state of his hair or the bulge in his trousers. All that afternoon Ron kept glancing at him to find Draco brushing a touch over the lovebite on his neck, seemingly unconscious of it. He almost wrecked three different big spells, terminally distracted.

“I have to tell Hermione and Harry about this,” Ron said. “Maybe not immediately. But definitely. For one thing, I think we might need to change teams.”

“Why?” Draco sounded a little apprehensive.

“Because if you keep playing with that bruise I left on your throat I’m going to bring Hogwarts down around our ears,” Ron said frankly, and was rewarded with Draco’s widest smile.

“Well. That’d be a shame after all this work.” He paused. “But your friends… they might be worse than my parents. Potter and Granger aren’t going to like that we’re…”

“They’ll be surprised. Maybe a bit worried. But they’re not going to be angry or anything. Hermione and me broke up almost as soon as we got together and they kind of like you.”

“What a ringing endorsement. How grateful I must be for the Saviour and - ”

“Don’t, come on. They’ll like you more once you stop running off to Slytherin all the time.”

“It’s true my charm works best in close quarters,” Draco agreed, and gave him a thoroughly filthy grin.

Ron ate dinner that night without tasting it and they headed straight for Slytherin. They kept glancing at each other as they walked towards the common room, and Ron felt every glance warm him.

There was a split-second of awkwardness as the stone scraped shut behind them. Ron decided to ignore the awkwardness until it got embarrassed and went away; he dropped onto Draco’s sofa, tugging at Draco’s wrist. Draco came down with him, and then they were kissing again, drawn together like a compass finding true north. It was strange, this heated kissing in the middle of the vast empty room, but so good. Ron bit Draco’s lower lip and he made a low, urgent sound.

Draco leant hard against him and Ron let himself go: Draco leaning against him more and more heavily quickly became Ron lying on the sofa with Draco draped deliciously over him. They squirmed together, legs tangling as their kisses became more heated. Draco had one hand in Ron’s hair, the other running over his shoulders; Ron had one hand on Draco’s back, the other on his arse. He used his hold to pull Draco ever closer and squeeze his arse shamelessly. Draco groaned low in his throat and pushed into Ron’s touch.

If they kept going, Ron was going to - and he thought Draco might as well, the way he was shuddering. Draco kissed the spot where Ron’s jawline became his neck and Ron jerked his hips so hard he thought he might sprain something.

Draco was moaning, and the sound reverberated through Ron’s mind and twisted his stomach. He knew he was moaning too, but he couldn’t hear it past his awareness of Draco’s gorgeous sounds and one of Draco’s thighs between his legs. They were finding a rhythm, rocking against each other, increasingly shameless. It was ridiculous and shocking and inevitable, that after all this they’d ended up here, and Ron kissed Draco again, Draco’s lips parting easily for him once more, and Ron’s whole body seemed to twist into one giant knot of tension before it released.

He was panting and boneless and his boxers were sticky, but he forced his eyes open. And then he was so glad he did, because Draco’s eyes were glazed, his hair stuck to his face by sweat, and he looked so incredibly open and Ron rolled his hips into Draco’s rhythm. Draco made a choked sound and fell apart, easy and beautiful, and Ron had never thought he’d get this gift.

They lay together while their breathing evened out. Draco was enjoyably heavy on top of Ron, and Ron fought the droop of his eyelids.

“Can I ask you something?” Draco said.

“Of course.”

“I was up half the night because of you, and I’m exhausted.”

Ron wiggled his eyebrows and Draco flushed prettily.

“Shut up. And then I had a very anxious twenty minutes this morning, freaking out in case you freaked out. And then today…”

“What’re you aiming at, Draco?”

“Can we go to bed? To sleep?”

He sounded embarrassed. Ron was thrilled.

You’re suggesting sleep? I win! I did it!”

“Oh, shut up.”

They both had showers and got into their pyjamas. Ron, being an optimist, didn’t put on his pyjama top.

Then Draco took Ron up to his dorms. Ron wanted to look around, take everything in and ferret out Draco’s secrets. He did that for about twenty minutes while Draco was sarcastic. But Draco’s mouth was still swollen, his wet hair curling at the nape of his neck, and Ron was only human.

Afterwards, Draco curled up in Ron’s arms. He fidgeted and wriggled, changing positions: little spoon to Ron’s big spoon, then butting his head under Ron’s chin like a cat, then slowly wriggling until his face was almost against Ron’s stomach. Finally he put his forehead against Ron’s shoulder, cuddling into the nook there, and Ron put an arm around him to make him stay.

“Sshh,” he mumbled through the fog of post-coital sleepiness. “Stay.”

“I’m not a dog,” Draco muttered against his armpit.

“No, you’re much more trouble than a dog,” Ron agreed. “But I’ll keep you anyway.”

He managed to stay awake for a few minutes more. Just long enough to feel each of Draco’s muscles relax against him; just long enough to see Draco’s sleeping face finally, finally at peace.