The portrait slammed open. The portrait slammed closed. An obviously angry Harry Potter stomped across the Gryffindor common room and up the stairs to the dormitory.
"Trouble in paradise," Hermione mumbled, looking up from her textbook.
Ron nodded from his seat beside her. A week after they had convinced Harry to stop his search for the horcruxes and come back to Hogwarts, he'd been kidnapped by the Death Eaters. Without Dumbledore, it had taken weeks to locate where he'd been hidden. They'd found him in some catacombs the Death Eaters were using as prison cells. He'd been starved and tortured, but refused to leave without the prisoner in the cell beside his. They'd broken into that cell and found a skeletal figure chained to the wall. As Hermione got rid of the chains and Harry gathered the form in his arms, Ron had been horrified to realize he recognized the near-corpse: Draco Malfoy! Harry had stayed by Malfoy's side through his recovery and afterwards. Because Ron saw how happy Harry was with Malfoy, and how being with Malfoy kept Harry from, you know, dwelling on the fact that he'd been tortured for weeks while his friends sat around twiddling their thumbs, he'd kept his opinions about the git to himself.
"Guess I better go see what's up," Ron said carefully, hoping he was sounding like a caring friend and not like a bloke who was tired of studying. Being Hermione's boyfriend was a bit too educational at times.
"Tact, Ron," she warned. "This is their first fight."
First fight. Here it was, nearly February, and this was the first time he'd seen Harry even remotely upset. Of course, it wasn't because Malfoy was above being an arse. No, it was because Harry had been in an accommodating mood. Malfoy was so...messed up after his captivity that everyone had been lenient with him. He'd been in the catacombs for months!
So what had the git done to make Harry forget about that?
"Harry?" He approached the closed bed curtains cautiously. His best friend was a powerful wizard--even if he didn't think so.
"I need to be alone, Ron."
Tears? He heard tears in Harry's voice. Damn ferret! "What's he done, Harry?" he demanded, throwing caution to the wind and pulling back the curtains. Harry lay on his stomach, his head buried in his pillow. His lifted his head slightly, revealing red eyes and wet cheeks. Ron wanted to pound something. Someone.
"He broke up with me. Said he was tired of my company. Said I just made him remember what he wanted to forget."
Ouch. "Want me to beat him up for you?" He winced, hearing an imaginary Hermione telling him he was an idiot with a Neanderthal mindset.
Harry gave a wet chuckle. "I think he's had enough of that. But thanks for the offer." He sighed. "If he doesn't want to be with me, I understand. All those months... But--I love him, Ron. Maybe he doesn't want me, but it doesn't stop me from wanting him."
His head dropped back into the pillow and his shoulders started shaking. Well..shit. "I'll give you your privacy, mate. Check on you later, okay?"
Ron went back downstairs. "Back in a bit, Hermione," he told his girlfriend.
"Ron, wait. What's going on?"
"Malfoy broke up with Harry."
"He told Harry some bullshit. I'm going to go find out the real reason."
He shook his head. "Malfoys have been the Weasleys' bitterest enemies for generations. But if there's one thing Weasleys know, it's love, Hermione. I've lived my entire life listening to my mum fuss at my dad and us kids. And beneath every seemingly angry word, there's love and concern. I--I hear that in Malfoy's voice when he talks to Harry. So I know he's up to something with this breaking up bit. He's not doing it because he wants to."
Hermione paled. "You don't think--the Death Eaters?"
"I don't know. But I do know I'm going to get to the bottom of this."
"You want me to come with you?"
He gave her a gentle smile. "This is something between guys, okay?"
"Okay, but take it easy. He's...he's been through a lot."
Which was probably why Harry hadn't pushed him. He mentally snorted. Malfoy may look like the poufiest of poufs, but Ron knew all Malfoys had a rod of steel crammed up their arseholes. A short interrogation wasn't likely to break him. "I'll treat him like family, Hermione."
He made his way to Malfoy's private room on the same floor as the medical wing and banged on the door. "Open up, you four-eyed ferret!"
The door was yanked open. "Weasley," Malfoy sneered. "There are sick people down the hall. Please be considerate and lower your volume."
"Fuck you, Malfoy. Let me in. We need to talk."
Malfoy gave a half-bow. "By all means, Weasley. Enter into my abode."
"It's a fucking room, Malfoy." He stepped in and closed the door.
"Should I turn down my hearing aid for this little tete-a-tete?" Malfoy inquired politely.
Ron was taken aback by the reference to the Muggle device Malfoy now had to wear. Thanks to long-term exposure to spells that kept him blind and deaf, only Muggle technology was keeping him from being completely impaired. Ron fought the sympathetic impulse that rose and continued on his path for the truth. "Why'd you end it with Harry?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Why is it any of your concern?"
Ron shrugged. "Maybe it has to do with my best mate lying in bed crying his eyes out because his heart's in a million pieces."
Malfoy paled--which was a good trick considering he hadn't had a hint of color in him since he'd been freed. Ron had once thought about asking Harry if Malfoy's dick actually managed to turn red when they were going at it, but he hadn't been drunk enough at the time to get the words out.
"It's for the best," Malfoy whispered.
"Harry's best...or yours?"
Malfoy tried to give him an indignant stare, then dropped his head in defeat. "Let it go, Weasley."
"No. Are you being blackmailed or something?"
"You're dying and don't want Harry to be hurt by it?"
Malfoy shook his head.
"You decide dick isn't it for you and you want pussy instead?"
So, Harry was still in the running. That was good. "You've found someone else?" Another headshake. "You want someone else?" Ron sighed as the head shook again. "Come on, man, give me a break. I'm not the smart one, remember?" Maybe he should've let Hermione tag along. No. He probably wouldn't have got as much as he had because he'd lied to Hermione; it wasn't so much as a "guy" thing as it was a "pureblood" thing. As much as Malfoy hated to admit it, they were equals.
"I don't have any money," Malfoy said in an anguished whisper.
Oh, yeah, they were equals in another way now that Malfoy didn't have mummy and daddy's Gringott's account. "What's that got to do with anything?"
Valen--Oh. "You broke up with Harry because you can't afford to get him a Valentine's gift?" He would've called him a stupid git, except he'd had the same reaction--albeit briefly--when he'd seen the great gift Hermione had got him for his birthday.
"It's humiliating. I can't even afford to get him a lousy box of chocolates from Honeydukes."
Poor bloke didn't even have any brothers to blackmail. Merlin, he was pitying Draco Malfoy. The world was surely going to end. At some point. "Umm, Harry could buy all of Honeydukes if he wanted chocolate."
Malfoy raised his head to stare at him. "You're really good at this cheering up stuff, aren't you, Weasley?"
Ron felt his face color. "Well, umm, what I'm trying to say is that if Harry wants something money can buy, he can buy it himself, you know what I mean?"
"Then I'm just to be his pampered boytoy? Although I'm not supposed to know, I know that he's the one who bought my new clothes and schoolbooks."
"Harry just wanted you to feel normal."
"And it's normal for boyfriends to get their boyfriends something for Valentine's."
Well, yeah. "How about something not bought?"
Ron's eyes lit up as a thought hit him. "Harry grew up as a Muggle and he's still dazzled by magic. You're a wizard, Malfoy. Dazzle him."
"Dazzle him? With magic?" Malfoy stood tall with a grin. "I can do that."
"Sure you can, mate," Ron said, heartily clapping him on the shoulder. "But first, you gotta get him back."
Malfoy gave a sheepish smile. "Oh, yeah."
"This is remarkable," Hermione said from the railing of the train that chugged around Hogwart's lake. "I didn't know you and Malfoy could work together so well."
Although Ron dearly wanted to take credit, his inherent honesty wouldn't let him. "I just borrowed Dad's Muggle train set. Malfoy's the one who did all the complicated transfigurations and charms." Malfoy had spent every free minute in the library, researching spells that would transform a toy train set into the real thing for a few hours. After hearing Harry mention that once he'd stood for hours in a Muggle store watching a train go around a track and imagining himself on that train, going nowhere but everywhere, Malfoy had known what he wanted to do for Valentine's Day. Using that steel arsehole rod, he'd managed to get everything ready in time...and had invited Ron and Hermione along for the ride.
So here they were, standing at the back of a train, staring up at the stars that twinkled above the fairy lights on the trees around the lake, with Hermione smelling of the perfume he'd got her and him fiddling with the watch she'd bought him. On the other half of the platform was Harry, grinning from ear to ear with his arms wrapped around Malfoy--thoughts of Voldemort and evil far from his mind. Sure, in the future loomed a war and death and the end of childish things. But it would be okay. They had Harry and Harry had Malfoy and what was meant to be would be.
"Come on, Ron, Hermione. Dobby fixed us a feast inside," Draco said, his hand firmly in Harry's as he led the way into the dining car.
Draco. It was a temporary truce for the day. Or maybe the year. Or maybe forever. Whatever. Ron grabbed Hermione's hand and followed the couple inside. It was a good night to be with friends.