“Parkinson doesn’t know how to dance.”
Ron kept his eyes on the newspaper in front of him. The Daily Prophet had been kind of boring since the round of funerals and celebrations after the war had died down, actually. Now they reported on crimes and the election for Minister—which Kingsley was sure to win, as all sane people knew—and gave hopeful rumblings about the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, still eight months away.
“I mean, can you imagine Malfoy being with someone who doesn’t dance? Ron? Are you listening to me?”
“Yes, but I wish I wasn’t,” Ron muttered, finally looking away from the paper so that he could watch Harry tearing a roll into pieces, trying to butter his hand, and glaring at the Slytherin table. “And how do you know Parkinson can’t dance, anyway? The Yule Ball was a long time ago.”
“Some of the Slytherin girls were gossiping about it.” Harry still hadn’t looked away from the Slytherins, or, more precisely, from Malfoy and Parkinson whispering and giggling to each other.
“Yeah, well,” Ron said, and swallowed some of the hot tea that was more and more necessary in the mornings now. If he wasn’t up late enjoying himself with Hermione, he was up late revising for the NEWTs. He loved Hermione enough to do the revision, but it didn’t make for an easy time getting to sleep. Lists of spells stuck in Ron’s head the way that some of Celestina Warbeck’s songs used to. “You can’t dance well, either. Or you didn’t when we were in fourth year.”
Harry whipped around and gave him a poisonous glare. “What do you mean by that?”
Ron stared his best mate in the eye. No, it was useless. Although Harry had taken to talking about Malfoy, staring at him constantly, following him around when he thought he could get away with it, and listening to gossip about him, he still wouldn’t come to the natural conclusion about what all those symptoms meant. He had been quick enough to accuse Ron of being in love with Hermione when Ron started doing it about her, but like most war heroes, Ron thought, he was pants at seeing inside his own head.
(Ron knew he was pants at it because Hermione had told him so, but it didn’t matter now, because they had each other to think with).
“I mean,” Ron said, retreating to the weaker position, “you’ve changed since then. So she might have changed, too.”
Harry went on looking at him, but like Ron was mental now, not like Harry was angry. “I haven’t had the chance to learn how to dance any better.”
“But you’re—more graceful,” Ron said, grasping at the only arguments he could think of. Why did Harry have to choose to think at the worst possible times? “You’ve played Quidditch more since then. So—uh, you would probably be more graceful if you danced, and maybe Parkinson would be too.”
Harry went on eyeing him for a second, then turned back towards the far table to look at Malfoy and Parkinson again. He promptly tensed up, and something that sounded remarkably and stupidly like a growl came out of his mouth.
Ron looked. Parkinson was smoothing Malfoy’s hair out of his eyes and saying something that made Malfoy flush pink. He laughed a second later, and Parkinson tilted her head back and laughed, too.
Ron sighed. He wouldn’t ever say that Parkinson was attractive, but she sure beat Harry and his fixed and deadly stare right now. Ron waved his hand in front of Harry’s eyes, although not without some fear. He thought his palm might end up blistered or something.
“What?” Harry was glaring at Ron in turn.
“Nothing,” Ron muttered. “Only you know Hermione will kill us if we’re late to Transfiguration.” Hermione had already gone ahead to ask McGonagall questions about revising, or she would have been here and could act as a shield between Ron and Harry.
“What do I care?” Harry said, and swung himself around on the bench to look at Malfoy again.
That was when Ron came to the conclusion that something had to be done. Had to. Because a Harry who didn’t fear Hermione’s wrath and wouldn’t at least roll his eyes sympathetically at Ron during her lectures wasn’t a Harry Ron wanted to be around.
For the sake of his best friend, and for the sake of having someone around who could help him with the lectures, Ron had to get Harry and Malfoy together. It was the only way that would get Harry to shut up, if he had the chance at a date with Malfoy. Ron knew the look in Harry’s eyes well; he’d seen it in his own eyes in the mirror lately, even though he had Hermione. He could only imagine what would happen if Harry didn’t have Malfoy and this went on all year.
A vision possessed him that made him shudder: it going on further than this year, and Harry following Malfoy around and talking about him when they all had jobs in the Ministry and Ron was training to become an Auror.
No. He was going to stop this before it got that far. For the sake of dignity. For the sake of pride. For the sake of being a Gryffindor.
“Did you see how she touched his cheek?” Harry was practically hopping up and down on the bench. “Did you see that?”
Ron buried his head in his hands. And for the sake of my bloody sanity.
The first thing Ron did was do a little Malfoy-watching himself.
The git appeared to have settled into an utterly predictable routine, now that the war was over. He went to all his classes, and studied in the library when he had a free period. He went to his Quidditch practices, although Ron had to admit, he didn’t seem to have one half the commitment to be a good Seeker that he’d had before the war. Then again, Harry was slacking off on his training, too, because he was too busy watching Malfoy to keep his eyes on the Snitch.
That’s another reason that I have to get him and Malfoy together as soon as possible, Ron realized that next night, waking up in a sweat from a horrible dream where Harry was too busy watching Malfoy’s arse to stop him before he snatched the Snitch. And then Harry wanted to give Malfoy a congratulatory kiss.
But Malfoy hardly seemed to spend any time around other Slytherins of his own free will, just at the table in the Great Hall. Ron saw him a lot, so he wasn’t staying in the common room much. Ron supposed that he slept in a room with the other boys in his year and the one below, the few who had returned, the same way they did in Gryffindor, but he had to immediately think of several brilliant chess moves to counteract the image of Malfoy sleeping with anyone, so he didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on that.
Well. Maybe that was hopeful. Malfoy would be more open to a romance with a Gryffindor if he didn’t spend all his time having his head stuffed with Slytherin propaganda.
Ron watched a few more days, to be sure, and then made his move at the next Gryffindor Quidditch practice.
“What do you think of Demelza?” Ron asked, turning his broom towards Harry. They were hovering over the pitch after the Chaser tryouts. “I don’t think she was as fast this year. Maybe we should take a look at that Angela Taylor instead. I know she’s only a fourth-year, but she can move.”
Harry grunted, his eyes locked on the school, the way they always were when he was outside and Malfoy was inside. Ron was sure that he had no idea who Angela Taylor was at the moment, although he had watched her pass the Quaffle back and forth with the other Chaser candidates and dodge the Bludgers the same way Ron had.
“But I also think,” Ron continued casually, “that we won’t need to train as hard this year, now that Malfoy’s giving up Quidditch, so that means we can afford to give some extra time over to training a fourth-year.”
He got Harry’s attention like a mouse running across a field would get a hawk’s attention, Ron reckoned. He hid the grimace that he wanted to make and instead turned his broom back towards the school, opening his mouth to call to Demelza and the others who had tried out for Chaser.
Harry seized the handle of his broom, leaned in, and hissed, “Who told you Malfoy was giving up Quidditch?”
Ron shrugged. “Some rumor that the Ravenclaws were chattering about this morning. You know that group of them we were walking behind on the way to Potions? Apparently Malfoy thinks that practices interfere with his studying.”
“But he can’t. If he does…” Harry let go of Ron’s broom and lapsed into deep thought, so deep that Ron was afraid his broom might fall to the ground.
Ron controlled a deep sigh. At least, if Harry got this out of his system now, it wouldn’t happen during an actual Quidditch game.
“He can’t do that,” Harry said finally, looking up and shaking his head. “I have to make him see that Quidditch is important to us—I mean, to both of us. To him, too. Who else is he going to beat, if he can’t play against me?”
“I thought he could compete with Hermione,” Ron said. “Academically, I mean,” he added, when Harry turned around and glared at him.
“No, he can’t,” Harry said decisively, and flew towards the school.
Ron rolled his eyes, because Harry hadn’t given him any input about choosing a Chaser, but there was a reason that Ron and not Harry had stayed on as captain of the Gryffindor team. Ron was already sure that his decisions had been correct, and he didn’t need Harry to talk him into or out of something.
Although it would be nice to have my best friend back.
From the way that Harry stormed into the Great Hall and up to confront Malfoy at the Slytherin table, Ron knew that he hadn’t succeeded in running the git to earth before dinner.
Ron hadn’t thought he would actually get to watch the confrontation, though. He leaned back, taking a big bite of potatoes so that he would at least have something in his stomach if Harry and Malfoy started a duel that made the tables flip over.
“Ron, don’t eat so much at once,” Hermione said at once, and then followed his gaze and gasped a little. “Oh, dear.”
Ron nodded. He didn’t think Hermione had come to the same conclusion he had, that Malfoy and Harry were obsessed with each other and circling around the point the way he and Hermione used to do, but she didn’t need to think about that to know the consequences of a fight. She was already packing the old book she’d been reading lately away into her satchel, although she went slowly because the red cover hung by a thread.
Harry stalked up to the Slytherin table and stood staring at Malfoy. Parkinson had had her hand on Malfoy’s shoulder, but Ron thought she took it back now, probably because Harry’s glare had the power to blister her the way he might have blistered Ron the other morning.
Malfoy, on the other hand, took forever to look up. The slow, insolent way he lifted his head made Ron want to gasp, but he narrowed his eyes instead. The little bastard. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he wants to trap Harry into the relationship that he’s hurtling towards anyway.
“Yes?” Malfoy barely moved his lips as he spoke, and barely moved his head when Harry leaned over the table to look him in the eye.
“Why are you quitting Quidditch?” Harry hissed the words.
Ron winced a little. Now Malfoy would say that he wasn’t quitting Quidditch, and Harry would turn back around and look at Ron. Ron had hoped the confrontation would stretch out a little longer, that Harry would ask a less direct question and they would talk a bit, and maybe either Malfoy or Harry would think about why the news made Harry angry instead of happy.
But Malfoy didn’t immediately deny it, though Ron thought that his face tightened for a moment. Then he sniffed and picked up a forkful of food. “It presents no challenge anymore,” he said.
Harry hit the fork with the side of his hand, and it flew across the room. There was a gasp from the Head Table, and “Mr. Potter!” McGonagall said, her voice promising detention at the very least.
Harry didn’t pay any attention to her, and Ron gave an internal cheer. Malfoy was playing along. Maybe at least one of them had a clue.
“It doesn’t?” Harry leaned further in, until both Parkinson and the Slytherin boy on the other side of Malfoy leaned back from him. Malfoy just kept staring, although their noses almost touched now. “What about with me playing?”
Malfoy gave him a condescending glance. “You’re too preoccupied to be fun anymore,” he said, and stood up and calmly walked away, heading for the doors out of the Great Hall.
Harry took a single stride after him, and then McGonagall, who had managed to get that far in less time than Ron would have thought, grabbed his shoulder and said, “Detention, for fighting with a member of another House,” loud enough for the entire Great Hall to hear.
But Malfoy, Ron saw, had paused. Although he was looking back at the little drama just like the rest of them, he had an expression of satisfaction as thick as cream on his face, and he slipped out instead of staying to watch.
Yeah, Ron thought, stirring his fork through his potatoes, Malfoy knows what he’s doing. And I reckon it’s a good thing to have an ally, even a slimy Slytherin ally.
“I have detention with Malfoy.”
Ron used his finger to mark his place in his book, seeing Hermione nod approvingly across the table from him. He felt a moment’s quiver in his heart, succeeded by a determination to make sure that she never got a look at what the book actually was inside his charmed cover. “How did that happen, mate? I thought McGonagall would give you detention by yourself, with her.” That was the way the Headmistress had handled the eighth-year students since they returned.
Harry slumped into place at the table next to them, ignoring Hermione’s hiss when his elbow almost knocked a stack of books off the table. “Malfoy’s a prefect, and according to McGonagall, I ‘went after him unprovoked.’” The gestures he was making with his hands did knock a different stack of books off the table, and Hermione dived to get them. Harry ignored her muttering as he looked at Ron. “So he gets to assign detention.”
Ron sighed. “Has he told you where it’s going to be?”
Harry shook his head. “McGonagall just said that it would be at eight tomorrow. I have to meet him in the Great Hall. It’s probably going to be to clean up all the food the Slytherins drop or something.” He closed his eyes and tilted his head back.
“Then you’ll miss Quidditch practice,” Ron said, with pretended dismay, his mind working away at this.
“I don’t care anymore if Malfoy’s not going to be there,” Harry said, and let his head slip in between his hands and down, until it thunked against the table.
Hermione rose from the floor, holding the books that Harry had knocked over and looking like the wrath of an Egyptian god. Ron had seen lots of examples of those during the trip that his family had taken to Egypt. He caught her eye and shook his head, but Hermione didn’t seem inclined to listen this time. “Harry Potter,” she said.
“What does it matter?” Harry asked, not something he had ever said before in the face of one of Hermione’s lectures. “If he won’t play me, then I might as well not fly, either.” He got up and wandered out of the library.
Hermione watched him go with her mouth open. Then she turned to Ron. Ron thought she would say something, but she just stood there with her books instead, waiting for some kind of an explanation.
Ron had to smile, even though the situation was more pitiful than funny. This was such a good example of the way they worked. He explained things outside books to Hermione, and she explained things in books.
“He didn’t even care,” she murmured in a little dazed voice.
Ron got up and put his arm around her shoulders, taking the chance to smell at her hair. “Don’t worry,” he said. “He’s obsessed with Malfoy right now, but I’m going to make this right. I think I know a way to make him concentrate on Malfoy but in a different way, so that when this thing is over, he’ll talk about other things once in a while.”
“Do you know how repetitive you were just now?” Hermione tilted her head back to look at him, bossy and commanding as always, but Ron could see the way her eyes were sparkling. “At least three words said twice over, when they didn’t need to be.”
Ron gave in to the impulse that he had at the moment—well, his brain couldn’t be coming up with brilliant moves to contain Harry and put him back on track all the time—and kissed her. Hermione let him, at least until Madam Pince intervened.
Ron shuffled the Invisibility Cloak a little to make sure that it was still settled over his head, and nodded. He thought this would work, but he had grown a little more since they last used the Cloak. He would have to check now and then and make sure that nothing of his ankles showed under the hem.
He was currently lounging against the wall outside the Great Hall, waiting for Harry and Malfoy. He’d talked to a few other people, in the guise of wanting to know what his best friend was doing at all times, and managed to cancel the Quidditch practice for tonight.
A moment later, he saw McGonagall hauling Harry down the last staircase to the Great Hall by his ear. Ron winced for his friend, and shook his head. He wouldn’t want to be in that position, especially when they reached the bottom and McGonagall looked Harry up and down, then reached out and straightened his Gryffindor tie. Harry slouched in his black school robes and scuffed a toe on the floor.
Speaking of growing, Ron thought. He could see Harry’s ankles under his own robes. He needed to buy a new pair, not that he would ever listen when Hermione told him that. Maybe he would listen to Ron, once this was over and he could listen again.
“You are a student of this school,” McGonagall said, in a hiss that was nonetheless audible easily to Ron, at least twenty feet away. “But more than that, you are a responsible young adult, an example to the younger students, and an inspiration for the students in your own House. A responsible young man does not act the way you acted today.”
“I never asked to be anyone’s inspiration,” Harry whined.
He would have got away with saying that to Ron or Hermione, because Ron had to admit it wasn’t fair, all the burdens that Harry had to take on and the extra ones that he’d been expected to assume since the war, smiling all the time as though nothing was wrong in his life. But McGonagall shut him up with a look.
“You went to speak at funerals and other occasions during the summer, did you not?” she demanded.
Harry blinked. “Yes.” Ron wanted to cheer. It was the clearest he’d seen Harry’s eyes in weeks, and he actually seemed to be looking at McGonagall instead of looking around her for Malfoy.
“Then you accepted the responsibility,” McGonagall said crisply. “I doubt the Ministry would have let you fade from sight, but you could have tried to make your role less by refusing invitations to speak. You did not. Deal with the notoriety.” She twisted around. “Ah, Mr. Malfoy.”
Harry jumped and leaned around her to look for Malfoy. He was scowling, or so he probably thought, but Ron noted the glazed look in his eyes, too. Ron sighed. If it wouldn’t have given away his position, he would have conjured a mirror for his poor, lovesick friend.
Or maybe not lovesick. It’s a little silly to think that he’s in love with the bastard. He just wants Malfoy to pay attention to him, and attention from Quidditch or in the corridors is no longer enough, so it’s this way.
“Headmistress.” Malfoy clasped his hands behind his back and bowed, perfectly politely. McGonagall probably thought he was looking at her, even. But Ron could see the way that his gaze had fastened on Harry.
Maybe he’ll do it himself. Maybe I don’t have to interfere anymore.
But then Malfoy twisted his head around to the side and sniffed, as though disgusted by the way Harry had hurried to straighten his tie even more. Ron sighed again. No, Malfoy was playing some stupid game where he annoyed Harry and then enjoyed the results. Well, Ron was tired of the results, thank you. He would ensure that something else happened instead.
“Mr. Malfoy.” McGonagall nodded to Malfoy. It was up to her why she had appointed Malfoy prefect, Ron thought, but it wasn’t very satisfying to know that she’d done it when she didn’t seem disposed to reveal the reason why to anyone. “Let me hope that you will continue to exercise the same restraint with Mr. Potter that you did today.” She glared at Harry again and turned around to swish her way to her office.
That left Malfoy and Harry to stare at each other. Malfoy seemed inclined to stand there and let Harry look his fill. Ron slapped a hand over his eyes. Was Malfoy waiting for Harry to make the first move? Like that would ever happen.
Ron loved his best friend, but he had a clear sense of his deficiencies—clearer than he wanted, given that Ginny had got drunk and come crying to him not long ago. At least, when Harry was dating Malfoy, Ron could have the satisfaction of knowing that Harry’s boyfriend wasn’t a Weasley.
“I have the perfect detention for you, Potter.” Malfoy’s voice was low and full of dark promise.
(Among the things Hermione had insisted they should share since they got together, and which Ron didn’t like having been forced to share, were romance novels. They contained phrases like the ones that Ron had just thought. Ron promised himself that he would learn a specialized Obliviate that would enable him to get rid of the memory of those particular words).
Harry, being Harry, didn’t notice. He just puffed his chest out to a ridiculous extent and snapped, “Oh, really?”
Malfoy raised his eyebrows, as if wondering what it would take to get through to Harry. Me, Ron could have told him. “Yes,” he said, tone cooler now, and turned towards the doors that led out of the castle. “But we can’t do it here.”
Harry immediately folded his arms and shook his head. “You think that I’m going to go outside with you, Malfoy? Never. Let’s go to a classroom or the dungeons or something. You’re not flying anymore, so I don’t want to set foot on the Quidditch pitch with you, either.”
Malfoy’s shoulders tensed. This time, Ron was sure that he would say something about the fact that he still intended to play Quidditch. But he just turned around with his face bland. “It’s a special detention, you idiot.”
Harry’s glare just got more intense. Malfoy’s hands twitched. Ron suspected that he was an inch away from throwing them up.
This was where Ron knew he had to come in, before Harry either said something stupid enough to drive Malfoy away altogether or Malfoy gave up and decided to assign Harry an ordinary detention. He drew his wand and cast the nonverbal spell that he’d been practicing all afternoon.
The sound of footsteps started coming from the stairs that led down to the Hufflepuff common room, along with happy laughter and chattering. Harry straightened and shot the noise something like a glance of panic.
“Let’s go,” Malfoy said, and grabbed Harry’s wrist, and started hauling him. Harry went, still watching nervously over his shoulder as though he was sure that the Hufflepuffs would make it into sight and see him touching a Slytherin.
Ron weighed the possibilities of staying inside. Surely they could manage it now, without any more help from him?
Then he remembered that this was a “couple” including a bloke who had thought that discussing the dancing abilities of Malfoy’s supposed girlfriend was appropriate dinner table conversation at Gryffindor.
Ron sighed, and followed. He wouldn’t trust that they could handle themselves until he actually saw it.
(Just…not too much. He didn’t want to see too much. He wasn’t Lavender, who, Hermione had told him in one of the many pieces of Gryffindor girl gossip that Ron didn’t need to know, apparently had an inclination for that sort of thing).
Malfoy did take Harry to the Quidditch pitch after all, and Harry walked silently beside him after a few minutes of struggle, although with his lip stuck out. Ron shook his head. Harry was absolutely desolate at the thought of not playing against Malfoy anymore, even though he should have been overjoyed about the easy victories that it meant Gryffindor would have.
What more sign did he need that Malfoy was an obsession of his? And not in competition, since this was entirely outside competition? But Harry still talked as though his heart was set on defeating Malfoy, and not—something else.
Ron knew he had the emotional range of a teaspoon, but he was starting to suspect that Harry’s was more like that of a stunned hedgehog.
Malfoy stopped in the middle of the pitch and turned around. For an instant, Ron froze, sure that he’d seen something, like the glitter of the Invisibility Cloak or the hem of it dragging on the ground, but then he snorted. As if that had happened. Malfoy’s attention was fixed as closely on Harry as Harry’s was on him.
“Do you really not know why I brought you here?” Malfoy asked softly.
Harry folded his arms. “So that you can give me the chance to persuade you to start playing Seeker again?” he asked.
Malfoy paused. Ron thought he could read the thoughts behind his eyes, all the rapidly flipping pages of his personal mental book (and wasn’t that horrible. Another thing Ron had a grudge against Harry for was making him see things from the perspective of a Slytherin). Malfoy had thought of something else, but since Harry seemed stuck on Quidditch, Malfoy obviously decided to turn that to his advantage.
“Yes,” Malfoy said, lowering his eyes in a way that made Ron suspect Parkinson had learned it from him and not the other way around. “By playing a game with me, and showing that you can still challenge me.”
Ron blinked. He hadn’t expected that much cleverness from Malfoy.
Neither had Harry, and he made the ultimately inconvenient time to return to suspicion of Malfoy, instead of going along with whatever private story he had made up in his own head to explain why he needed to keep an eye on him and question him constantly. “What do you mean?” he demanded. “You know that I can still challenge you! You’ve come down here and spied on me flying just like—”
He stopped. Ron controlled his snort with an effort. It seemed that even Harry, even in this state, understood that it would be a bad idea to admit that he’d also spied on the Slytherin Quidditch practices.
But Malfoy didn’t seem to need an explanation. He tossed Harry a smile as thin as a letter-opener and shook his head. “How long has it been since we played each other, Potter? You know as well as I do that McGonagall wouldn’t have permitted Quidditch even this year if she didn’t think it would make a good distraction from the thoughts of the war.”
Harry drew himself. “Everyone should think about the war from time to time,” he said.
Malfoy’s leg twitched as if he wanted to stomp his foot. Ron understood the impulse. God, Harry was difficult and contradictory, flitting back and forth between acting as though he wanted nothing better than a distraction from his memories of the war, and then insisting that everyone needed to turn their lives into a memorial.
“From time to time,” Malfoy said, when he had command of himself back. “But that doesn’t mean that we need to think about it all the time.” He moved forwards, his eyes locked on Harry’s face. “I don’t know if you can still challenge me or not. The last time we flew together, it was together, remember? On that broom that you used to rescue me in the Room of Hidden Things.”
Harry’s face was so scarlet that Ron could see it even in the falling dusk. He looked off to the side and cleared his throat until it sounded like he was choking. Ron snorted to himself. Get it now, do you? Harry was probably thinking about the way Malfoy had clutched at him as they flew, and the look in his eyes when they landed.
(Not that Ron remembered it, or had had time to notice it. But Hermione, who was writing a book about the year of the war already, had insisted on describing these things to him).
“I—I can still play you,” Harry said, falling back before Malfoy now as if Malfoy had been the one stalking him.
“Then prove it,” Malfoy said, leaning close enough that Ron thought they were going to kiss right there. He was going to leg it back to Hogwarts to preserve both their privacy and the precious sanity he was doing this for in the first place, but Malfoy turned towards the Quidditch shed, and Harry let out a shaky breath and followed him.
Ron shook his head. It seemed he would have to stay around until they were in the air.
Even that took longer than anticipated. Harry fumbled around forever finding a school broom, because the one he usually took had been snatched by Malfoy. Malfoy stood there with the Snitch already in his hands, wings trembling furiously.
Ron sighed. This was fun and all, but he wanted to get back to the Gryffindor common room and put his feet in Hermione’s lap and listen to her read an insanely boring book that would become magic when transformed by her voice.
Harry was finally ready, and Malfoy rose on the broom. He tossed the Snitch into the air when he was halfway up. Harry immediately zipped skywards, aiming for it, but the Snitch spun and darted away. Ron heard Harry’s curse as he missed, and Malfoy’s laughter.
Then they were circling, and as little interested in their romance for its own sake as he was, Ron had to admit that his breath caught as he watched them, the way it did when he watched the Cannons play. They were both magnificent flyers, and the last rays of the setting sun lit them up, glancing off clouds and Malfoy’s hair.
Ron waited. Now that they were up, he could imagine all sorts of things happening. Suggestive looks that Malfoy wouldn’t have wanted to give Harry on the ground, where other people could see them. Brushes between legs and hands and broomsticks. Ways that Malfoy would contrive to get Harry to look at his profile and the line of his throat.
(Honestly, Ron was impressed with his own imagination. He would have tried some of those tricks if Hermione had ever consented to get on a broom in a situation that didn’t involve life and death).
But nothing happened, and from the way Malfoy leaned on his broom and sent it swirling closer to Harry, Ron didn’t think it was the git’s fault. He touched his eyes with his wand and whispered a Clear-Sight Charm, to help him focus on Harry.
The world shuddered, and then zoomed in like the Snitch as it had taken off. Ron could see the way Harry’s brow was furrowed, his hands clenched around the broom, his shoulders shivering because it was cold at that height and he hadn’t put on Quidditch leathers…
Ron wanted to slam his hand into his forehead.
Harry was focused on the bloody game. He was looking for the Snitch, not at the man circling beside him.
So I was right, and they needed me after all, Ron thought, and took out his wand again. He cast a charm that he wasn’t supposed to know—some of Hermione’s books from the Restricted Section had looked interesting, and he’d sneaked a few glances—that broke through the usual spells on the Snitch which prevented it from being affected by the magic of people on the pitch. Then Ron cast an Elliptical Charm. The Snitch would orbit whatever the nearest human to it was.
In this case, that turned out to be Harry, who nearly fell off his broom trying to spin after it.
And Malfoy finally reacted as Ron had hoped he would, putting out his arms and curving them around Harry’s waist, dragging him away from the Snitch and close to him. Harry wobbled on his broom as if he would fall off, but then turned and clutched at Malfoy.
Ron cast the Clear-Sight Charm again. This time, he could see the way Harry’s eyes widened, and his mouth fell open, and a thick blush started making its way across his cheeks.
And he could see the moment when Harry yielded to the inevitable, and leaned halfway forwards to meet Malfoy in a kiss.
Ron released his spell on the Snitch and let it fly off somewhere. He nodded. It was a good deed. Malfoy could always claim that he’d just been rescuing Harry because he thought Harry was about to fall, and Ron knew Harry would go along with that, because he still probably had that blindness that wouldn’t let him acknowledge what they were really doing there.
In the meantime, he had an appointment with the Gryffindor common room, Hermione’s lap, and a Transfigured book.
“Parkinson really needs to stop touching Malfoy.”
Ron thought about the temptation to bang his head into the plate of bread in front of him, but only briefly. It was good bread, and after some of the activities he and Hermione had got up to last night that hadn’t involved books, he needed the energy.
“She needs to stop,” Harry hissed, and leaned forwards again, his eyes once again focused on the drama of Parkinson and Malfoy across from them. “She may not know that he’s taken, but he does. Why do you think he’s encouraging her?” He turned to Ron with that expression on his face that said Ron was actually supposed to provide an answer, instead of just listening to him and nodding when appropriate.
Ron rolled his eyes. “Honestly? The little berk’s trying to make you jealous.”
Harry directed another seething glare at both Malfoy and Parkinson this time. Ron waited for him to do the obvious, and then said, “So why don’t you go over there and stop him?” He didn’t believe that Harry was the type to resist because Malfoy was trying to make him jealous. Hermione might do that, but not Harry.
“Because he wanted to keep our relationship secret,” Harry mumbled. “He said that was the Slytherin thing to do.”
Ron couldn’t believe he had to point out the obvious, but two minutes passed and Harry just went on with the staring. Ron leaned into his field of vision, and Harry started and reared back a little.
“And you,” Ron said, letting the words drag out because he thought it was the least he could do for himself, “are a Gryffindor.”
It was wonderful to see the fire finally come back into Harry’s eyes, and to see him stand up with a confident toss of his head. Ron watched for a second as he stormed across the Great Hall, straight towards Malfoy and Parkinson, just to make sure that he didn’t lose his way or stumble and stub his toe at the last second.
But he turned away before Harry hauled Malfoy out of his chair by his shirt and started kissing him.
Some things, he just didn’t need to see, best mate or not.
And now, it seemed, things were finally back on track. Which meant Ron had yet another appointment with Hermione—this time in the library, to persuade her out of studying during their free period.
That’s me, Ron Weasley, doer of good deeds.