ETA - This is also a belated Birthday gift to Ron Weasley. I'm late to everyone else's birthday why should he be an exception.
Title: The Odd Couple
Summary: Can two wizards share an apartment without driving each other crazy?
Author's note: Dedicated to mad_maudlin - I wanted to post this in time for your birthday but the gods were against me so Happy Friday. Many thanks to abigail89 for her friendship all her help. Any remaining errors belong to me.
The Odd Couple
There is a certain cynicism one can only gain through experience. A certain distrust of the world that can only be acquired through years of mistakes, disappointment, and regret. Many people are idealistic in their youth, as the path of life stretches out before them, forking into roads lined with promise and possibilities. But with time, as the road left behind becomes a distant memory, most are a little less inclined to stray off the known path because drifting off to these less familiar places hasn't really been all that rewarding.
When he was sixteen it had been fun to go off on adventures -- fighting Dark Forces, going on secret missions, saving the world. But Ron Weasley was twenty-five now; the war was over, the last of the Death Eaters had been caught, and it was time to settle down. It's what other wizards of his age did. They got married. They had children. They were respectable members of society. It was the mature course, the logical path his life should follow.
So the question then arises: Why was he sharing a flat with Draco Malfoy?
If Ron were truly trying to avoid bumps in the road of life, this was not the way to go about it. Draco was rather big bump; a small mountain, in fact. So why was Ron willing to climb it? To understand how he got in this predicament in the first place it is important to start at the beginning, and the beginning goes something like this:
“My name used to mean something in this town,” Draco Malfoy lamented as he threw down the society section of the Daily Prophet, whose pages were filled with pictures of galas and balls that he was not invited to. “When was the last time any party happened in England that didn't have a Malfoy on the VIP list? Do you have any idea how many people have kissed my arse in my lifetime? Growing up, I used to think my name was 'Anythingyouwantdraco'.”
Pansy Parkinson smiled as she refilled his empty wine glass. “Your name still means something in this town, Draco. Unfortunately, people would rather kick your arse than kiss it.”
“It can't go on like this.” Draco drank down his wine -- he bit his tongue to keep from commenting on the dreadful vintage -- and tapped the rim of the glass indicating the need for a refill.
“Times are tough for people like us, dearest. Traitors to our bloodlines because we turned from The Dark Lord, traitors to the rest because we didn't out and out renounce him, either. No one wants to have anything to do with us. Face it, Draco; the glory days are over. “
He swirled the wine in his glass. “They don't have to be,” he said plainly.
Pansy looked up at Draco's last comment. He was getting that look in his eye again. The one that made him look half mad/half possessed. The one that always got her in trouble. “You've been thinking again, haven't you?”
“Perhaps,” he said with an upturned lip.
That twisted smile made Pansy nervous. “Oh Draco, why? You know that never ends well.”
He ignored her, as was his habit. “It's a rather ingenious plan.”
“No, it's not.”
“You haven't heard it yet.”
She relented, as was her habit. “Okay. Tell me this inspired plan.”
”I'm going to court Weasley.”
Pansy didn't move; she was waiting for the punch line or, at the very least, for the world to end in a fiery explosion of sulfur and brimstone. When it became evident that neither was forthcoming, she swallowed hard and asked, “Which one?”
“The one,” he said with a glint in his mad/possessed eye.
For the love of -- “Have you been drinking illegal potions again?”
“Just take a moment and think about it,” he began calmly. “The Weasleys are one of the oldest pureblood families around. For some reason, they are respected and well liked. Any affiliation with the name alone is enough to make mine less nefarious. Now take the most famous Weasley of all, Ronald: frontline general, war hero, and all around nice guy.” He threw the society section to Pansy where the aforementioned Ronald “Nice Guy” Weasley could be seen in formal dress robes holding his glass high in mid-toast. “Being seen with him will put my name out in the public eye again and in a positive light. Before long my name will be restored to its previous grandeur and the world will be right again.”
Pansy still didn't move but apparently the punch line she was waiting for had arrived. She broke out in high-pitched giggles that quickly became rolling laughter. Soon she was doubled over, clutching her stomach, with tears running down her face. Hyperventilation was not far off.
“I see you like the plan,” Draco said with a scowl.
“Good Lord, Draco,” she gasped. “You can't be serious.”
Draco stared at her as she dried her eyes. “Do I look like I'm joking?”
No, she supposed it didn't. “Oh, Draco,” she said sadly. “Whatever made you think of this?”
“He dated Zacharias Smith for a year.”
“Oh, please Pansy. Zacharias is just a watered down version of me. Blond haired, fair skinned, Seeker's build - “
“Obnoxious, self centered, pompous-“
“That too,” he admitted. “The point is, Smith is a cheap imitation. It didn't last because he wasn't real thing.”
“Draco,” she said as she rubbed small circles into her temple. “Did it ever occur to you that it didn't last because Zacharias was a little too much like you? Maybe he did remind Weasley of you, and when he became conscious of the resemblance he went running,…screaming into the dark cold night.”
“No,” Draco said after a moment. “That's not it.”
Pansy sighed. Draco was hard enough to deal with. A Draco with a plan was nearly impossible. For a brief moment she had flashbacks of Draco's volatile temper those few short months Weasley and Granger dated before Weasley came out of the closet. While Pansy got years of joy from telling everyone that Granger turned 'The Great Red Wonder' gay, she wasn't sure it helped Draco's disposition for it seemed, whether Ron was straight or gay, he was still unattainable and Draco never quite accepted that. “You can't think this could work?”
“I know it will,” he declared.
Pansy refilled both of their glasses. If nothing else it would be entertaining. “All right, darling. Let's hear more of your master plan.”
Meanwhile, in a cozy flat in London:
“You know,” he began, his words slurring as five fire whiskeys finally took effect, “I thought that dating men meant getting away from overly emotional confrontations. I thought that there wouldn't be talks of marriage and commitment and eternal-effing-love. If I wanted to deal with that crap I would have dated women.”
“What's happened now?” Harry asked, although he already had a pretty good idea.
“The Daily Bloody Prophet posted a picture of me at the Wizengamot Ball. Terry saw it and saw me with Evan Abbot, and he pitched a fit. I tried to explain that Evan was an old friend and that he only invited me because he didn't want to go alone. Before you know it, the questions started: 'Where is this relationship going? Don't you love me? When are we going to make it official?' Blah blah bloody blah. I've had it.”
Harry narrowed his eyes . “Did you sleep with Evan?”
Ron waved him off. “That's not really the point, is it?”
Harry smiled sympathetically. He'd been through this many times before. Ron gets in a relationship. The relationship starts to get serious. Ron gets nervous. Ron does something extraordinarily stupid. They break up. Ron ends up drinking all Harry's liquor. Three days later Ron is seeing someone else, starting the whole blasted process over again.
The problem was, in Harry's estimation, that Ron was so keen on the idea of a relationship he kept getting involved with the wrong people. Ron figured he could plan his life out: find a good job, settle down, have a family, and stay away from anything that could potentially tear him to shreds. Comfortable, safe, and beautifully mediocre.
The first part was easy as the job offers came left and right after the war. Ron found himself as the new head of the Department of Games and Sports, a ridiculously well paying position that gave him access to every Quidditch game on the planet. The second part was trickier as Ron figured out that he preferred wizards to witches, so the settling down bit would have to be modified but it was still workable. He got a bit sidetracked but he was still on course.
Ron's impatience at reaching this goal of mediocrity on the road to normal, however, led to a string of failed relationships. No matter who Ron ended up with, he would inevitably find said paramour lacking. He left Roger -- because he was too clingy -- for Edgar. Edgar was too aloof, however, so he moved on to David. David was too chipper in the morning, which was completely intolerable, so he dated Owen, and so on and so on.
Terry was an old friend from school and, as far as Harry was concerned, Ron's best chance at a normal relationship. Terry was good looking, fun, kind, and he truly cared about Ron. In short, he was too normal. Harry had known the relationship was doomed from the start because Ron got the wandering eye much more quickly than usual; enter Evan and the Wizengamot Ball. Ron equated being normal to being happy and until he realized that the two sometimes worked independently of each other, he would find neither.
“Did Terry move out?” Harry asked.
“Really?” Harry was very surprised to hear that.
“Well, he never really moved in.”
Of course. “Didn't even get that far, eh?”
Ron scowled as he drank down the dregs from his glass. “I'm done, Harry,” he announced with a grimace.
“Done with what?” Harry was almost too afraid to ask.
“Done with relationships. Hermione keeps telling me I'm pushing things and I'm beginning to think she's right. Don't tell her I said so though, I'll never hear the end of it.”
“What are you saying exactly?”
“I'm saying I'm not dating anymore.”
“Ron,” Harry began with a laugh, “I don't think that's what she meant. I think it goes more along the lines of you need to let the relationship happen naturally instead of trying to force it.”
“Nope, I'm pretty sure she was trying to tell me I'm not one for relationships at all and she was right. I'm off the market.”
Harry smiled indulgently as he made a pot of very strong, very black coffee.
Now as far as beginnings go, this wasn't a very good one. Draco wanted his life back and he thought the quickest way to reach that goal was to associate himself him Ron. Not an easy task considering Ron hated him. A lot. Add to that the fact that Ron had just decided that he was not going to date anyone again, and you have the makings of a really bad story, or at the very least, a potentially painful one.
Luckily, neither of our hapless heroes were aware of that fact…
“Weasley, is that you?” Draco managed to sound delightfully surprised, which was really impressive, considering he'd been stalking Ron for three weeks and knew exactly were he could be found at any point of the day or night.
“Malfoy,” Ron said like he was spitting something putrid out of his mouth. “What are you doing here?”
“What does one normally do in a tea shop?”
“Normal people get tea, which still doesn't explain why you're here,” Ron sneered.
“As witty as ever, I see,” Draco smiled wistfully. “Oh, how I've missed your droll repartee. Let me buy you a cup.”
“I can afford to buy my own, thanks,” he replied as he turned away from Draco to examine a tin of Darjeeling.
“I wasn't making a crack or anything. I was offering to buy you a beverage.” He sounded very nearly sincere -
- which went right up Ron's arse sideways. “Why?” Ron snapped.
“I get the feeling that 'because you looked thirsty' is not the right answer. Are you in a tea shop for another reason?”
Ron huffed. “You're slipping, Malfoy. I expected something like, 'Applying for a job, Weasel' or 'Hoping for a free scone from the day-old bin'.”
Draco laughed. “That does sound like something I would have said. I was quite the smarmy bastard, wasn't I?”
Ron stared at him, his eyes bugging. “'Was'? 'Would have said'?”
Draco smiled warmly. “Surely you don't think I'm the same person at twenty five that I was at twelve?”
Now that you mention it…”Why would I think otherwise?”
“Well, are you the same person?”
Ron was visibly taken aback. “No.”
“Then why would I be?”
Ron seemed to consider this for a moment. It had been years since he last saw Malfoy. He supposed it was possible that he was less of an evil prick than when he was at school. Of course, he was a rather large, rather evil, prick so it was possible to be less of an evil prick while not losing the title in its entirety. But this was Malfoy…. “You may not be the same person, Malfoy, but that doesn't mean I like you any more than I used to, and I sure as hell don't want you buying me a drink.”
“How about dinner, then?” he asked smoothly, as if Ron's words simply rolled off his back.
“Dinner? Are you out of your tree?”
“Possibly,” Draco began. He gave Ron a small almost sad smile. “I'm not the same person I was. I haven't been for a long time. I think if you gave me a chance you'd see that.”
“Why would I give you a chance? Or more importantly why do you even want one? You do remember who I am, right? Ron Weasley. Gryffindor. Friend to all Muggles. You haven't been hit with some hex or something, have you?”
“I am not asking you to dinner out of duress, Ron.” He held back a laugh. “Look, there really is no reason for you to think twice about me, it's true. I probably deserve every bit of disdain you have for me.” Draco paused as Ron huffed and mumbled something about deserving to be pulled apart by rabid Nifflers. “I've spent a lot of time trying to fix the mistakes I've made in my life. It hasn't been easy; believe me when I say I've made a right mess of things. I'm not proud of my past, of the things I did and didn't do. If I could go back I would change so much, but that isn't an option for me. Instead, I'm trying to make amends because the fact is, if I don't at least try, then I really am no better then I was. Does that make sense?”
Oddly, it did. It did make sense. “You want a fresh start?” Ron asked.
Ron could understand that. The war changed a lot of things. There were some parts of his life he really fought to hold on to, like his friends and his family. There were also some parts he really wanted…needed to leave behind. And didn't he want a fresh start, too? One that was far away from war and fighting and hatred? It was better to have friends than enemies, wasn't it? “I suppose I could give you a chance, Malfoy. There's no reason to think you are the same arrogant, egotistical, self-centered, obnoxious, sniveling little worm you were at Hogwarts.”
Draco kept his smile plastered on his face. “That's right generous of you,” he said stiffly. “How about Friday?”
“Sounds all right. Have you ever been to Modern Alchemy?”
His eyes lit up. “No. I haven't.”
“It's a great place. We can meet there. Say, around seven.”
Draco's Cheshire cat smile circled in at the corners. “Sounds perfect.”
Later that day two wizards sat at different restaurants, with their respective friends, regaling them with vivid accounts of the teashop encounter:
“You're going out with Weasley?” Pansy wasn't sure if she more shocked that Draco had succeeded or that he had succeeded so quickly.
“Friday night,” he replied smugly. “We're going to Modern Alchemy.”
Despite herself, Pansy was impressed. “That's a rather exclusive club.”
“Rather exclusive?” he said with a snort. “You practically have to blow the maitre'd to get a reservation in the next three years.”
Pansy smirked. “So when's your reservation?”
“A year and half from now. But that doesn't matter anymore as I will be there this Friday.”
“You seem quite pleased with yourself.”
“You should have seen me, Pansy,” he said brightly. “I was brilliant; talking of not being the same person I was at school and looking for a fresh start. He bought every bleeding word. The gullible sap.”
Pansy began to chew on her lip, try as she might not to, she couldn't help but worry about her long time friend. “Draco, I don't think Ron is as dumb as you think. He was moderately instrumental in taking down the Dark Lord and he's very successful now. I doubt he would have made it this far if he was as much of an idiot as you claim.”
Draco cocked his head to the side and furrowed his brow as he contemplated her. “It's like you're speaking Goblin, I can see your lips moving but I can't understand a word you're saying.”
“Oh fine, you lout,” she snorted. “But mark my words. You're the one who's being dense. Ron Weasley is not who you think he is.”
“He is exactly who I think he is, and you mark my words he and I will be having a cozy breakfast together on Saturday morning.”
“You're going out with Draco.” Harry Potter was sure the end of the world was coming.
“What? It's not like it's a date.” Ron sat across from him, pouring an obscene amount of sugar into his tea.
“You're taking him to Modern Alchemy.”
“So, you practically have to blow the maitre'd a to get a reservation in the next three years.”
“I've never had a problem getting in and I have never preformed a sexual favor on any member of the wait staff.” More sugar found it's way into his cup. “Well, not to get a table, anyway,” he muttered as an afterthought.
“You're a celebrated war hero and a high ranking Ministry official. Your picture is in The Daily Prophet almost every week. Of course, you'd get in. You're only going there to show off.”
Ron thought about it for a moment. Perhaps he was trying to show off. He is a bit of a celebrity and maybe it would feel good to rub it in Draco's pointy face…just a little. Maybe it would feel really good. Really good. “I have no idea what you're talking about.”
“Of course not.”
“Look, he seemed really sincere. The war, it did funny things to people, you know. It's been years and we're all still recovering. I don't want to fight anymore, Harry. I don't want to go back to being that insecure kid who would let someone like Draco Malfoy get under his skin. I can handle this.”
Harry just smiled. “You're asking for trouble, mate.”
“What are you talking about? It's just dinner.” At this point he had added so much sugar to his tea that the liquid could no longer dissolve the crystals.
“It's not just dinner, it's Draco Malfoy. Considering your track record, this has apocalypse written all over it.”
“I already told you, it's not a date. I'm taking a break from all that. This is just two people trying to bury the hatchet. I thought you'd be proud of me, being mature and all. Do you think it was easy to agree to this?”
Harry's smile twisted. “I think it was very easy.”
“You wound me, Harry.”
Harry laughed. “Just don't say I didn't warn you.”
“Consider me warned.”
Harry made a mental note to replenish his liquor supplies. This one would not end well.
Despite thinking that their best friend was clearly insane and headed for a mountain of trouble the likes of which the world had never seen, neither Pansy Parkinson nor Harry Potter wanted to see them hurt. Each felt it was up to them to save their friend from their own stupidity. It was a thankless job, but one they were used to. So when Friday morning came around, and the two spotted each other on the streets of downtown London, they chose not to ignore the other's presence, as they would have in the past, but met in the middle.
With a determined step, Pansy stalked down the street, right past Evelyn's boutique and their outrageous sale on shoes and right toward Harry Potter, who, for his part, didn't even turn his head toward the delightful smell of fresh strawberry tarts from Haversham's Bakery.
“We need to talk.”
“I was just thinking the same thing.”
After several minutes spent deciding on neutral territory for their tête-à-tête, they ended up in “The Potions Master's Brew House”, a place neither had been before. Pansy normally didn't go to any restaurant that had no wine list, and Harry usually avoided any place that brought up images of potions class; it was terrible for his digestion. The pub was dark, so chances were no one would bother them, and secluded, so they wouldn't be seen together.
They sat down and neither said a word as a waiter came to take a drink order.
“I'll have a gillywater with a splash of elderberry juice and a lime,” Pansy said, watching Harry with open hostility.
“I'll have a double shot of Graphorn Scotch.” Harry countered Pansy's look with a flippant smirk and bad posture.
As soon as they were alone Pansy spoke: “You've heard.”
“I have and I want to know what Draco is playing at.”
Pansy didn't answer right away. Harry could almost see her arguing with herself; she blinked erratically and her lip twitched randomly. Suddenly she stated, “Draco has no idea what he's doing.”
Harry almost burst out laughing but pulled back as he had a decidedly girly laugh and it might hurt his standing in these discussions. He settled for a haughty, “I could have told you that.”
Pansy leaned her elbows on the table. “He's been going through a rough time lately.”
“Who hasn't?” Harry would not be distracted by her appalling table manners.
“You don't understand. Draco's life has changed drastically and he has had a hard time adjusting. He's basically alone in the world and it's made him a bit…confused.”
Harry was thrown off by the bit of melancholy in her tone. “Why are you telling me this?”
Pansy sat up. “Because I'm afraid he's going to get hurt.”
Harry had misread all previous signs - this was obviously the first sign of the Apocalypse. “Wait, you're afraid Ron is going to hurt Draco. You want to protect Draco from Ron….Weasley?”
“Look, Potter, I've known Draco all my life. I've seen the patterns that his life falls into. I've seen the look of hope turn into despair in the blink of an eye, and I've always been the one who picked up the pieces. He's not what he appears to be, not even to himself. I know him. He's my best friend and I don't want to see him hurt. You can understand all that, can't you?”
Harry was saved from replying by the arrival of his drink. He didn't know what to say. On the one hand he understood exactly what Pansy was talking about; she managed to dissect his own relationship with Ron with frightening accuracy. On the other, this was Pansy Pug-nosed Parkinson, and he had no reason to trust her. Harry suddenly wished he had another hand.
“Ron isn't looking to hurt Draco,” he said honestly. “Show off a bit, maybe, but it's harmless. Can you tell me, truthfully, that Draco isn't planning on hurting Ron?”
“He won't hurt Ron.” There was a certain conviction in her voice that sounded genuine.
“So,” he began the apprehension clear in his voice. “What happens now?”
“We wait and see what they do. We keep communications open. Should it appear that either is heading to a bad place, we intervene.”
Harry began to nod slowly. “I can agree to those terms.”
“Good,” Pansy said shortly. “We should meet regularly….to keep abreast of what's going on.”
“That sounds good.” Harry took a long sip of his drink. “Tell me, Pansy, have you ever been to Modern Alchemy?”
Friday night came much more quickly than either man expected.
For Draco, who was steadfast on a quick and tidy seduction, the preparation started two days prior: a facial to keep his porcelain skin glowing, a manicure because dirty finger nails would just never do, a hair cut at his favorite salon, a new outfit that set off his eyes and accentuated his slight but fit stature, and the prerequisite 14 hour sleep because bags under his eyes were a big no-no.
For Ron, for whom this was most certainly not a date, the preparation started three days prior. In the 72 hours before his non-date he checked the reservation 8 times, got a hair cut at one of those ridiculously priced, overly trendy, girly-man barbershops, got new trousers, returned said trousers and got another pair, got a shirt to go with the new trousers, had his shoes shined, and got his prerequisite 14 hour sleep because he took enough sleeping draught to calm a hyperactive hippogriph on a sugar high.
Friday evening, just before both men headed out the door, they received pep talks from their respective friends.
Draco needed very little pep.
“Draco!” Pansy said with a slight hint of awe in her voice. “You look-“
“Fan-bloody-tastic,” he drawled. The rule for those in the know was that anyone who was anyone wore Muggle clothes to Modern Alchemy. Draco's ensemble was stylish and chic and incredibly tight. The deep green of his shirt made his eyes sparkle and the sleek line of his trousers showed off his slender build. “Weasley doesn't stand a chance.”
Ron needed slightly more pep.
“For someone who's not going on a date you sure are snippy,” Harry said with a whole lot of exasperation in his voice.
“I'm not snippy,” he said in a decidedly snippy manner. Ron hated wearing Muggle clothes. He liked the denims, especially when they were starting to wear and fray, but these tailored trousers were a nightmare. They made him look too tall, too thin, and too much like he did when he was in school. He didn't want Draco to think of that boy at all. He wanted to look more sophisticated, more mature. “Maybe I should change?”
Ron didn't change, however, as he didn't have the time. Instead he opted to wear a sport coat over the shirt. Ginny and Hermione, who came over earlier that afternoon -- because they both had to see this for themselves -- approved. Ron knew it was a good choice when Hermione asked him if he was totally sure he was gay.
He arrived at Modern Alchemy promptly at seven. Siobhan, the hostess for the evening, seated him right away. He was pleased to see they gave him the corner table normally reserved for high profile celebrities. From there he could see everyone at the restaurant, but more importantly, they could all see him.
Draco, who was ready at six, didn't actually arrive half past seven. He was thrilled to see that Sedgwick wasn't hosting that evening; it would be awkward since the last time they saw each other Draco was ensuring a reservation.
“Mr. Weasley is waiting. Right this way.” The hostess seemed flushed a bit as she spoke and Draco smirked. They passed the crowded restaurant as they made their way toward the table. Despite himself, he was impressed, not only was Ron able to get a reservation at the most exclusive place in town on short notice, but it also seemed they gave him the best table. Draco smiled to himself. Affiliating himself with Weasley was already paying off.
“Mr. Weasley, your guest has arrived.” Siobhan stepped out of the way, and Draco and Ron got their first looks at each other.
One must know what it feels like to open a photo album and see pictures one hasn't seen in decades to truly understand Ron's reaction. Ron couldn't hide his pleased expression and couldn't stop his lip from upturning ever so slightly at Draco's appearance. Draco was all fine lines and rich material, all sharp color and perfect grooming. He was everything Ron remembered from their school days, only the scorn he once felt was gone, replaced by an appreciation for what could only be called beautiful.
One must know what it feels like to be awakened from a deep sleep by a bucket of ice water to truly understand Draco's reaction. He managed to keep the look of haughty disinterest on his face when he first saw Ron in a tailored suit and dazzling blue shirt, but only just. Ron looked sophisticated and mature and nothing like he did when they when to school together. Draco's mouth went dry and his palms started to itch. If he didn't know any better, he might say he was nervous but, of course, that was preposterous. A Malfoy would never allow such things.
Meanwhile, at a table hidden in the opposing corner…
“Draco looks nice.”
Pansy scoffed. “Draco looks as Draco always looks -- perfect. Ron on the other hand….”
“Ron looks amazing. Draco wasn't expecting that.”
Harry couldn't help but be annoyed by this comment. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Don't get your knickers in a snit, Potter. All I'm saying is that Draco always likes to be the prettiest and, I have to say, he's got a bit of competition this evening. This is going to be some night. Good job on the seating arrangements.”
Harry sat back, pleased. When he called to make his reservation for the evening, it was easy to request that Ron, his very best friend, get the best table in the house, the table that everyone else in the restaurant could see. It was his intention that he and Pansy be able to surreptitiously monitor the evening's events. If it also happened to impress his dining companion -- well, there was no harm in that, was there?
They gave each other a small smile before turning their attention to the other side end of the restaurant where a waitress was bringing over drinks.
“That's interesting,” Pansy noted. “Draco ordered what appears to be straight liquor?
“So, Draco is strictly a fruity drink sort of guy. Straight liquor, without juice, an umbrella, or some other accouterment means he's nervous.”
“Ron made Draco nervous?” Harry craned his neck for a better view.
Pansy didn't say anything but continued to watch. “Ron looks to be drinking a nonalcoholic beverage.”
“What!?” Harry jumped up to make sure.
“What's wrong? What does that mean?”
“It means Ron is trying to stay sober,” Harry said, surprised.
“And… well, I suppose it means he doesn't plan to make a move. “ He fell back in his chair. “Maybe it isn't a date.”
Pansy sank in her seat as well. “Draco will be crushed.”
“Don't make any judgment calls yet. Let's see what they order for dinner.” Forty minutes later a waiter brought over a large tray of assorted finger foods. “Hmmm,” mumbled Harry.
“What?” Pansy said. She looked over at the tray and then at the menu still on her lap. She scanned the listing to try to see what is was they ordered.
“Don't bother, you won't find it on the menu.”
“What is it?”
“It's called 'The Alchemist's Gold'. It's a mixture of rare delicacies from all over the world. You get this big tray with small pieces of all these different exotic foods. It's very expensive and reserved for only the restaurant's most favored clients. I gather Draco has never had it before.”
“He's never been here before.”
“Then Ron ordered it.” He broke out in an odd smile. “He's trying to impress Draco, trying to impress him a lot.”
“Well,” said Pansy with a smile of her own, “things are looking up.”
Draco woke up the next morning, alone and unhappy. “Pansy,” he yelped.
Dutifully, Pansy walked in to his bedroom with a sobering tonic, some dry toast, and a box of tissues. It was their custom for Pansy to drop by Saturday mornings for breakfast, with the understanding that if the door was warded Draco had company -- and breakfast would therefore become lunch. Possibly dinner of said company was exceptionally hot. Pansy knew there was no danger of being blocked by a warded door this morning. “I gather Ron didn't stick around.”
“What?” said a bleary-eyed Draco as he reached for the drink.
Pansy bit her lip to hide her smile. “You assured me that you and Ron would be breakfasting together this morning. 'Cozy' I believe was the chosen adjective.”
“Don't throw grammar at me before noon. You know how my stomach gets.” He threw back the potion and settled back onto his pillows. “Things didn't quite go as I had thought. I may have…miscalculated.”
“You don't say.” Pansy sat on the edge of the bed and waiting for the tirade that was sure to come the very second the tonic took effect.
Two minutes and fourteen seconds later, Draco growled. “He's got some nerve, he has.
“Of course Weasley! Who else? First he takes me to this restaurant that's impossible to get into. He orders this extraordinary bloody buffet full of all these foreign foods that they only make for special guests. Plies me with drinks and rich desserts for four sodding hours. Pays for everything. Apparates me to my door to make sure I got home okay. And then he… and then he….”
Pansy's eyes went wide. “And then he what?”
“He gives me a hand shake good bye.” Draco was beside himself.
Good lord, she wished she had a camera. “So he was a perfect gentleman.”
“You don't have to rub it in,” Draco snapped.
“I wasn't rubbing anything in.”
“You don't get it, Pansy,” he wailed. “He might as well have called me a eunuch. How dare he?”
“Draco, aren't you overreacting?”
He glared. “I. Am. Not. Overreacting.”
“Okay,” she said carefully. “Let's go back a bit. How did the rest of the evening go?”
Draco sniffed and shrugged. “Fine.”
“It was…it was nice.”
Sometimes she could just pinch him. “Really.”
“I don't know what happened to him. He was so different. So …” Draco looked lost. “Was Ron funny back at school? Do you remember him being funny?”
She was going to comment on his use of Weasley's first name but refrained, fearing for her own safety and the last thread that held Draco's sanity in place. “We didn't talk a lot back then. I remember you laughing a lot at him, but not with him.”
“True,” he said thoughtfully.
“Is the plan still in play?” she asked hoping it wasn't.
“It was a minor setback. I underestimated him. I'm going to have to do something a bit more drastic.”
Pansy shook her head as she left to get more tonic for her friend. Poor Draco, she thought bemusedly, he doesn't stand a chance.
“Rise and shine.”
Harry pulled the blanket high over his head; he didn't take well to losing his beauty sleep.
“Come on, Harry. You're burning daylight.”
A muffled noise that sounded very much like “Fuck off, you bloody great wanker, before I rip your privates off and stuff them down your throat” came from beneath the mountain of bedding.
“I've brought breakfast.”
The comforter moved revealing one blood-shot green eye. “Muffins?”
“Pumpkin, cranberry, lemon poppy seed. Your choice.”
A head covered in black hair that stood out in odd angles like a half-plucked porcupine popped out. “Are there nuts in the cranberry muffin?”
“Not a one,” Ron said very seriously.
Fifteen minutes later, Ron was sipping coffee at the kitchen table while Harry -- who had just been castigating Ron for bringing over the pumpkin muffin with the crumb topping when he knew perfectly well that Harry liked the iced kind -- started on his second muffin. “So,” Harry asked with a mouthful of a nutless cranberry muffin. “How was your date?”
“Nice, actually,” he replied between sips. “And it wasn't a date.”
“Of course. What did you talk about?”
Ron shrugged. “Nothing, really. And everything, I suppose. Did Draco get good marks at Hogwarts? Do you remember him being smart?”
Harry snorted. “I remember him being a smart arse.”
“That goes without saying. I mean…well, I was surprised, I reckon. He seemed really well versed on whatever we talked about. Time just flew by. We were there for something like four hours.”
“Sounds like you had a good time.”
“I think I did.” Ron seemed shocked by his own words.
“Are you going to see him again?”
Ron nodded absentmindedly as he sipped his coffee. “Wednesday.”
“You've already made more plans?”
“Yeah. Why not?”
“No reason,” Harry said as he popped the last bit of muffin into his mouth.
Three weeks later, Pansy and Harry found themselves seated at the back table in a quiet restaurant three blocks from Ron's flat. Pansy went out in public without make-up for the first time in her life, and Harry was fairly certain he was still in his pajamas.
“This can't go on,” he said with a yawn. “I'm bloody exhausted.”
“You're exhausted,” she snarled. “At least you don't have to deal with a drama queen who goes apoplectic every night because Ron won't touch him in a naughty place.”
“Oh no,” Harry snapped right back. “ I get woken up at the crack of dawn every damn morning by Mr. Sunshine and Flowers who just can't wait to share the details of his non-dates. Non-date trips to the theater. Non-date excursions to museums. Non-date bloody picnics in the park. I'm ready to strip them both naked and glue their private bits together.”
“You have no finesse, Potter. There are other ways.”
Harry found he liked the way Pansy's eyes glimmered when she was thinking evil thoughts. “You have a plan?”
She grinned. “As a matter of fact I do.”
“Nargles?” Ron asked. “Are you sure? I thought they were just a figment of Luna's twisted mind.”
“Apparently, Luna's mind managed to twist itself around one correct fact. Nargles are real and currently teeming all over my house. It will take months to rid the house of the nasty vermin, and I've got to move out. ”
Ron and Draco sat at the very teashop where they first encountered….er, re-encountered each other all those weeks ago. Ron was drinking Darjeeling with an appalling amount of sugar and a splash of milk. Draco was drinking Earl Grey with no sugar and a lemon wedge. They “split” a raspberry Danish - split here meaning Ron ate the whole thing while Draco stared at the way Ron's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. Ron wasn't aware of how much food hadn't split with Draco in the recent weeks.
“Move out?” Ron asked as he wiped the last bit of Danish from his chin.
Draco sighed dramatically. “It seems that only really noxious potions can drive the blighters out. I can't stay. I have somewhat delicate sensibilities. ”
Ron wondered if 'delicate sensibilities' was a nice why of saying 'whiny flaming queen.' “Where will you live? In a hotel.”
“A hotel?” Draco shuttered. “In rented sheets? I think not.”
“With Pansy then?”
He shook his head. “Cats.”
“Cats. Pansy's got a houseful of them. They get their mangy fur all over everything. I'd rather grate my skin against the rented sheets. No, it looks like I'll be forced to stay with my mother.”
Ron couldn't help but note the sadness in Draco's voice. Draco spoke little of his parents. Of anything that had to do with the past, actually. Ron never pushed; he knew Draco was looking for a clean break from that part of his life. But Draco didn't have to explain to Ron why staying at his mother's home would be difficult for him. It was common knowledge that she blamed Draco's disloyalty to the Dark Lord for Lucius's death. She would never say so in public, never say a word against her only heir - purebloods never aired their dirty laundry where some servant might be able to hear it.
According to a reliable source - that would be his mother, who got a lot of information for someone who “would never stoop so low as to gossip” - Narcissa gave Draco a chunk of his inheritance early and suggested that he might be happier living somewhere else. Draco, who was just as proud as his mother, left without saying a word. He did take the money - he wasn't an idiot. Going to her now after all that, must have truly meant Draco didn't have another choice.
Suddenly Ron wanted to give him another choice. “You could stay with me.”
“I could?” Draco nearly knocked his teacup over.
“Sure,” Ron shrugged. “I've got plenty of room, and it would only be for a little while.”
“You don't mind?”
“No, I don't.” Ron was surprised to find he really wouldn't. He had lived with guys before, this would be no different except that Draco would have his own room. Ron looked up at Draco and noted he had the faintest of blushes on his otherwise pale cheeks. It was somewhat endearing.
It was then that Ron realized he was in trouble.
(Onto Part Two)