DISCLAIMER: The Harry Potter series and all the characters associated with it are the property solely of J. K. Rowling, her agents and publishers. No infringement of any rights is intended from the creation of this story. Nor is any money being made from it.


Circles of Power

Part Eleven - House Rules

By Mad Martha

       

"No. Fuckin'. Way."

That was Seamus, expressing himself in his usual eloquent fashion, but he spoke for the entire group. Even Hermione was unusually belligerent, and Neville looked positively fierce.

Harry didn't blame any of them. He had let Ron do the talking back at the Auror Facility, not trusting himself, but when the red-head's angry tirade had come to an end (which had taken a while) and Dumbledore had looked at him, he had pointed out that in any case there were five other people in the house who had to be consulted.

He had felt fairly confident at that point that this would scupper Moody's plan, but he had reckoned without the weight of respect everyone felt for Dumbledore. Clustered in seats around the living room, sharing tea with him, it seemed like no one could come up with a really good reason to refuse him this request.

It was Dean who finally voiced what everyone was thinking.

"It's just well this is Malfoy," he said. The loathing he invested in the word was typical, but the blush that accompanied it was not. "He's a Death Eater."

"He has renounced his allegiance to Voldemort," the professor said composedly.

Neville made a smothered noise that Harry suspected had started out as a raspberry. The others looked deeply sceptical.

"He made our lives hell at school," Seamus muttered sullenly.

"Well, that was a number of years ago now. You are all adults and, I feel, can be trusted to act with less biased judgement."

"I don't trust him," Ginny said abruptly. She was huddled up on the sofa next to Ron, and of all of them looked the most disturbed by the idea of the enemy moving into the house. "I don't think I'll feel safe with him here. What if what if he's just waiting for an opportunity to hand us over to You-Know-Who?"

"That concern has already been extensively voiced by your brother and Hermione," Dumbledore told her kindly. "We will be taking a number of precautions to ensure that he cannot use, nor be caused by an outside agency to use, the Dark Arts or act in any way that intends harm. We will also increase the protections on this house, and add a few extra safeguards that will allow you all to place him under immediate restraint should any trouble occur in spite of everything."

"It's not just that." Ginny looked embarrassed. "He's nosy. He always was - him and his friends. We're not going to be able to watch him twenty-four hours a day. What if he starts poking around?"

"If you feel uncomfortable with the idea, perhaps you could stay with your mother for a while?" Dumbledore suggested.

The suggestion was kindly meant, but everyone reacted rather badly to it.

"Why should Ginny have to move out because of him?" Ron demanded, summing up everyone else's feelings.

Harry cleared his throat and they all looked at him. He sighed. They all looked as if they were expecting him to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

"Look, if it's a matter of security, we could always get someone to fix the doors and locks for us," he suggested. "We could make it so that he can't move around the house easily without one of us escorting him."

Ron nearly exploded. "Dammit, Harry - "

"No, wait a minute! Listen to me." Ron subsided, simmering. "What else can we do?" Harry asked him. "He's got to go somewhere, and obviously he can't just be put up at the Leaky Cauldron and left to his own devices. I don't like this idea better than anyone else! But short of dumping him on Sirius and Remus, we're short on options. And since it's a full moon in less than a week, that's probably not a good idea either."

"Works for me," Dean said sourly. "Werewolf food is about all he's good for." There was a sullen murmur of agreement.

"No, I have to agree with Harry," Hermione said unexpectedly. She heaved a sigh too. "Look, how bad can it be? I don't think he's going to want to socialise much with us either, so maybe we can just pretend he's not there most of the time. And he's hardly going to have chances to get out of line. I mean, we're all going to be watching him like hawks, aren't we? The first wrong move he makes, he's going to be jumped all over. In fact," she added, with a certain grim satisfaction, "I'm going to enjoy personally making sure he knows what will happen to him if he tries anything."

This produced a few nasty chuckles.

"Okay, so where are we going to put him?" Dean asked, at length.

"The living room floor, with an old blanket," Neville muttered.

"Nah, I'm not tripping over him every time I want to use the Floo."

"He'll have to have the spare room," Hermione said.

"That's next door to me," objected Ginny.

There was a pause.

"Then I'll swap with you," offered Hermione, unenthusiastically.

"No," Harry said at once. "Call me old-fashioned, but I don't want either of you near him."

"That's very sweet, Harry, but I think I'm more than a match for Malfoy if he gets ideas - "

"Hermione, the whole point of having him here is keeping him alive!"

"I suppose we could move back into that room and give him the attic," Ron suggested in a tone of great long-suffering.

"Don't be daft!" Neville objected. "No way is that room big enough for two people ."

"Look, I'll swap with Ginny," Seamus said, exasperated. "I can live with girly wallpaper and Malfoy as a neighbour for a few weeks. Unless ." He suddenly looked across at Dumbledore, who was placidly enjoying his tea while they thrashed the matter out between them. "How long is he likely to be here, sir?"

"Hopefully not very long," the professor replied. "I would imagine that whatever is going to happen in respect of young Draco and our friends here," he nodded in Ron and Harry's direction, "will occur in a relatively short space of time. By now I would think Lucius Malfoy must have realised his son is missing and will be seeking to recover him."

"Great," muttered Ron.

       

"As you've probably already noticed," Sirius told Draco Malfoy dryly, "this house is locked up tighter than a vault in Gringotts."

Malfoy merely nodded, his eyes wandering over the living room furnishings but his face neutral. He appeared to be avoiding the eyes of the other nine occupants of the room, which was hardly surprising, for it was a hostile little party that assembled to greet him when Sirius and Lupin brought him to the house on Friday evening. The housemates had all resigned themselves to the situation, but that didn't mean they had to like it.

The protections on the house had been increased over the past couple of days to a point where it felt, to Harry at least, like the whole place was subliminally humming. Then Bethany Bloom had arrived to sort out the internal security, putting one of the clever wizard locks that she excelled at on the doors of every bedroom and cupboard.

"So it works like this," Sirius continued. "You don't have a wand, so you can't Apparate or Disapparate, but even if you could you wouldn't be able to under this roof. We've set up a spell to block it and only certain people have been keyed into the spell. Try it and you'll fry yourself. The Floo is also off limits unless one of the other residents accompanies you."

Malfoy said nothing.

"Try to break any of the protection spells on the house and you'll regret it. That's what the Seal of Honour is on your back for. Behave yourself and don't try anything, and it'll leave you alone. But I believe Moody explained to you what will happen if you activate the Seal."

"In tedious detail," the blond youth drawled.

Moody certainly had. Harry, watching this scene from over by the window, winced at the memory. Ron had had to leave the room during the elderly Auror's lecture, although he had managed to watch the actual procedure without flinching.

"All right ." Sirius appeared to be exercising considerable control over himself. Malfoy's attitude was probably annoying him no end. "There are also a number of other protections, all of which are set up so that should there be any trouble, any one of the other residents in the house can instantly restrain you or confine you to your room."

Hermione stepped forward.

"Every private room in this house now has a personalised lock on it," she told him coolly. "I wouldn't advise you to try breaking into anyone's bedroom."

This, at least, got a reaction from him.

"Oh, for heaven's sake! I'm not a burglar!" Malfoy said, annoyed.

"No, nothing so charming," she said dryly. "Your own room has a similar lock which is personalised to you. But in addition, there are secondary spells that will allow everyone else to confine you to your room if necessary." A tiny, rather nasty smile crossed her face. "You might want to be nice to us, or you could spend a lot of time in there. Oh - and the windows and doors have been spelled against you too."

"Great." Malfoy cast a cold look around the room. "Why not add a couple of Dementors on the front door, for that extra cosy touch? Oh, I forgot - Potter's sensitive to them, isn't he?"

"You owe it to the generosity of everyone in this room that you aren't spending your time with me and Lupin in his werewolf phase," Sirius told him acidly. "I'd watch that smart mouth of yours, Draco, or it could happen to you yet."

There was a pause, then Sirius nodded and stepped back. "Harry and Hermione will take over from here."

       

Harry had to wonder what Malfoy thought of the student house. One thing was for sure; it wasn't anything like what he was used to. The building, which looked like a standard three-storey, terraced Muggle house from the outside, had been magically expanded internally to include an extra floor, seven bedrooms, one unusually large bathroom, and enough kitchen and recreational space for seven people. The furnishings were a little on the worn side, but it was still a cosy place to live - or so Harry thought.

The spare bedroom was definitely a bit bare. There was a single bed, which had hastily been made up earlier that day, a clothes chest and a small table and chair, plus a rug on the floor. It was quite a small room, compared to the others. Malfoy made no comment about the furnishings, merely registering them, but he homed in on the pair of old Quidditch gauntlets still lying on top of the clothes chest.

"Whose room was this before?" he asked, picking one of the tough dragon-hide gloves up.

"Mine," Harry replied, leaning against the doorpost and watching him thoughtfully. "Until I moved into the attic room with Ron, that is."

"Oh."

"Dumbledore sent a trunk with some clothes and other things for you," Hermione told him, pointing to where it stood under the window.

She walked over to the wall by the door and tapped it with her wand. "Aparecium rules," she commanded, and a large sheet of cream-coloured parchment shimmered into existence, stuck to the wall with spellotape. The list on it had originally been printed, but had since been significantly altered by various different hands.

"These are the house rules," she continued. "If you break them, you get stuck with some of the general chores, like shopping. You're responsible for keeping your own room tidy, managing your own breakfast and lunch, and doing your own laundry. House meetings are compulsory. The list for cooking dinner is made up already, but that doesn't let you off the hook, Malfoy - there's nothing to stop you helping out."

For the first time, he looked uneasy. "I can't cook."

Hermione gave him a wintry little smile. "You'll learn. It's my turn tonight, so you can help me."

Harry hid a grin. Malfoy would learn or else, he suspected.

"And there's a house meeting tonight," Hermione added.

That wiped the smile off Harry's face.

       

Dinner was usually a boisterous, chatty meal, but tonight there was a distinct atmosphere when everyone gathered around the table. Harry was reminded of the time he had arrived for a Potions class only to discover that Professor Snape had decided to crack down on unruly behaviour by making each Gryffindor sit next to a Slytherin. There had been an odd kind of jockeying for position as everyone tried to avoid sitting next to people like Crabbe, Goyle and Millicent Bulstrode.

No one wanted to sit next to Malfoy this evening. Hermione always took the head of the table, and he had taken a seat next to her, so somehow Harry found himself sitting between Malfoy and Ron. Ginny took the foot of the table, which left Neville, Dean and Seamus silently arguing over who got the dubious privilege of sitting opposite the enemy. In the end it was Seamus, who took his seat stiff-backed and glowering.

It should have been funny, but instead Harry found himself wondering if he really wanted to eat after all.

It was Neville, always a sunny soul, who broke the silence.

"Lasagne!" he said cheerfully, and made a grab for the bread basket.

Everyone relaxed fractionally and settled down to eat. All the same, it was an unusually subdued meal.

"What, you mean you don't all say prayers before you start?" Malfoy murmured insinuatingly to Harry under the cover of clattering plates and cutlery.

Harry curbed the urge to tip the entire contents of the lasagne dish straight into Malfoy's lap. Hermione's cooking deserved a better fate.

"No, but you might want to before the evening's out," he muttered back, and passed the dish hastily to Ron before he could change his mind.

Nothing much more was said until the dishes were washing themselves in the sink and the ice-cream was handed around, although there were one or two raised eyebrows when Malfoy grudgingly got up to help Hermione serve it.

Dean broke the uneasy silence in the end.

"I heard you raided Knockturn Alley today," he said, grinning at Harry and Ron. Malfoy looked up at this, although he didn't say anything. "Find anything interesting?"

"Nah." Ron looked disgusted. "We were looking for poisoned tea, but there wasn't a sniff of the stuff. We picked up a few other bits and pieces that were dodgy though. I mean, there's absolutely no good reason for anyone to sell human eyeballs - even if the donors were willing, and they couldn't prove that. The documentation was practically non-existent and they had a sign up saying they were certified Muggle eyeballs, for crying out loud. I hate to think where they got them from."

"Muggle hospitals and mortuaries," Malfoy said unexpectedly.

At the other end of the table, Ginny very quietly pushed her ice-cream away, looking a bit green, and there was a pause during which the others stared at him, revolted. He continued to eat his ice-cream but wouldn't meet anyone's eyes.

Seamus put his spoon down very deliberately.

"Done that yourself, have you?" he asked pointedly.

"No." Malfoy said quietly. He looked up at Seamus. "Whatever else you might think of me, Finnigan, I've never been a grave-robber."

"No, I couldn't imagine you dirtying your hands," Dean said. His voice was tight with control; he was Muggle-born, like Hermione.

Harry felt his skin begin to prickle; the atmosphere had gone from calm to knife-edge in seconds, and he could feel the tension rolling off Ron like a physical wave of heat.

"Change the subject, please," he said curtly. He didn't want Ron or Seamus starting a fight if it could be avoided.

"Er - did you turn over the whole Alley, or just certain shops?" Neville asked quickly.

"Just a handful of the most likely suspects," Harry replied, as calmly as he could. Seamus's glare was threatening to combust the tablecloth at any moment. "Mostly the ones selling Seers' equipment, since it was tea involved."

Dean took the hint and tried to force some humour into his voice. "What about that perfume shop, Harry - what was it called?"

"Casbah Intoxica." Harry rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I thought someone was going to bring that up."

"Find anything interesting in there?" Dean insinuated, grinning at him.

Ron relaxed, giving a tiny snort of laughter. "He wouldn't go inside!"

"Neither would you, if you'd been blasted with Jezebel the last time," Harry retorted irritably.

Malfoy dropped his spoon on the floor with a clatter, muttered an apology and disappeared under the table to find it. When he re-emerged, Harry thought he looked a bit strange, but mentally shrugged it off.

"Has everyone finished?" Hermione asked. There was a mutter of agreement, so she leaned forward and tapped the water jug with the handle of her spoon. "Okay, House Meeting!"

Dean and Seamus groaned.

"Do I stay for this?" Malfoy asked her.

"You're living here, aren't you? Come on, everyone, settle down!"

Ron sighed, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms.

"Go on, throw it at us," he said, resigned. "Item one!"

Ginny giggled.

"Who forgot their privacy spell again the other day?" Hermione asked archly.

Harry stared at her. "We didn't! Did we?" He looked at Ron. "Did we?"

"Don't we always? According to everyone else, that is ...."

"Yeah, you did," Dean told him, "and let me tell you, that was your worst lapse yet."

Harry felt the heat climbing his face. "Can I ask a question? Why do you always wait until house meetings to tell us? If it's so bloody annoying, why doesn't one of you bang on our door at the time?"

"Because there's enough banging going on already?" Seamus suggested.

"Hey!" Ginny protested. "Eww! That's my brother, thanks, and I'd rather not think about him doing ... that."

"You don't have to think about it. You can hear him at it - "

"Settle down!" Hermione intervened uselessly.

"Actually, Harry's got a point there why are all you perverts listening anyway? You should be asleep!"

"Asleep! How can anyone sleep with that going on?"

"Well, we're not the only ones "

"No, you're just the worst offenders ...."

"I think you could at least think of my potted mandrakes!"

This was Neville and there was an instant, startled pause. Then Ron subsided into juvenile sniggers.

Harry fought to keep a straight face. "You know, Nev, I've usually got something other than your potted plants on my mind at the time."

"I'm serious!" Neville was quite indignant. "I was in the middle of re-potting adolescent mandrakes last week, and do you have any idea how dangerous it is to handle immature mandrakes after anything like ... like that?"

Dean gave him a bemused look. "Neville ... it wasn't you doing anything." A look of horror crossed his face. "And if it was, and you were, I don't want to know about it."

"I think we're getting off the subject here!" snapped Hermione. She turned to Harry and Ron. "You broke Rule Six: You get shopping duty this month."

"We get shopping duty every month," Ron grumbled, but he didn't argue with her.

"The list's on the fridge door. It's up to you where you go to get the stuff." Hermione forged ahead like a beleaguered general. "Next item, finances. Seamus, you still owe the kitty two Galleons and a Sickle from last time."

He dug into his pocket wordlessly and pulled out a handful of change, dropping the three coins on the table in front of her.

"Thank you." She pulled a folded envelope out of her jeans pocket. "Dean, we got the phone bill yesterday. I think most of the calls were yours if you want to make the cheque out, I'll settle with you for mine."

"Will do." He took the envelope from her.

"You have a telephone here?"

That was Malfoy, and Hermione blinked in surprise; he had been keeping very quiet.

"Yes, we do."

His brow furrowed. "Why?"

"Because some of us have relatives who prefer using the phone to owl mail."

"Got a problem with that?" asked Dean, bristling.

"Not at all. I was merely curious."

"Well, keep your curiosity to yourself. It's none of your business."

"Fine, fine! Forget I said anything." Malfoy slumped back in his chair sullenly.

Hermione moved on quickly. "We'll be getting the usual bills for contributions to the Floo network, rent and so on shortly. I'll leave the kitty box in the usual place. Is everyone happy for me to sort those out, or does someone else want to take over?"

"I'll take over for a while, if you're fed up with it," Harry offered.

She smiled at him. "Thanks, but I don't mind for now." Her face slid into a sudden frown. "Actually, that reminds me ." She glanced at Malfoy. "Did I mention to you that we split the household bills between us?"

"If you did, it got lost somewhere between making bechamel sauce and tossing the salad," he replied politely. "But in any case, there's a small problem with that. I would pay my share, but I don't have any money."

The silence that followed this was incredulous.

"You were rolling in Galleons at school!" Neville exclaimed, voicing the general disbelief.

"I used to get an allowance from my father, but that was cut off about six months ago. And since I don't have a job, I don't have any money of my own." Malfoy's tone remained mild, but Harry could feel him tensing up. Whether it was from anger, embarrassment, or a simple desire not to start a quarrel was unclear.

Not quite sure why he felt a need to intervene on his old nemesis's behalf, Harry nevertheless did so.

"Look, it's not a big deal. I'll talk to Sirius about it on Monday."

Hermione agreed to this so quickly that he had to wonder if she'd been on the verge of jumping in too. The group was like a powder keg, all too ready to explode at the slightest excuse.

"All right, I think that's everything. Does anyone else have anything to raise?" No one said anything. "Right, fine. Meeting closed."

       

Harry was running up the stairs to get his chess set later that evening, when he noticed Malfoy standing in the doorway of his room, looking lost and aimless.

Harry was fundamentally a kind-hearted person. He tried to keep going, but halfway up the next flight of stairs he slowed to a halt. As much as he tried to tell himself that Malfoy's welfare was not his problem, he couldn't simply ignore him. Heaving an exasperated sigh (more at himself than anything else), he turned around and went back.

Malfoy was still standing in the doorway.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked him.

The blond youth dug his hands into the pockets of his jeans and shrugged. Harry reflected that this was the most Muggle-looking he had ever seen him, but he couldn't decide if it looked right or not. Annoyance sharpened his tone.

"Why are you standing around in the passage?"

The usual smirk was very fleeting. "I don't have much else to do."

"So why don't you go downstairs and join the others in the living room?"

Malfoy nodded. "Yes, I'm sure that would be a popular move."

He had a point. Harry sighed.

"Do you want a book to read?"

There was a tiny pause in which they stared at each other, and Harry wondered what on earth was going on behind those enigmatic grey eyes. Then Malfoy nodded again.

"Yes. Thank you."

"Come on then."

So Harry led the way up to the room in the attic that he shared with Ron.

There was a long bookcase behind the door, that was crammed tight with books on all manner of subjects - old school books, spell-books, demonologies, potion recipe books, Ron's huge collection of volumes on every conceivable aspect of clairvoyancy, divination and prognostication, Harry's wizard warfare reference books and Quidditch manuals, and other more mundane volumes such as poetry and fiction. More books were piled in front of the bookcase, by the side of the bed, and on top of the big chest of drawers under the window.

Harry scanned the shelves, wondering what to give the other youth to read. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Malfoy looking around curiously, although he made no move to touch anything.

Stacks of books aside, the room was generally neat and tidy. Harry was a compulsive neat-freak and always had been, while Ron tended to be much more untidy, but they had discovered within a month of moving in together that they had to keep some semblance of order, or not only could they not find things but they also had arguments about it.

There was the big bookcase taking up one whole wall, apart from a small space where they hung the clock and a couple of hooks to hold outdoor cloaks; and the chest of drawers under the window, with its clutter of books, tarot cards, scrying bowls and crystals on top. Two owl cages, one each for Hedwig and Pigwidgeon, stood on the window ledge, currently empty. One end of the room had a built-in closet where they kept all their clothes, and there was a big armchair in front of it that Mrs. Weasley had given Ron when they first moved into the student house. The small bedside cabinet that matched nothing else in the room was Harry's. But mostly the bedroom was dominated by the big four-poster bed, with its dramatic black velvet drapes spangled with gold moons and stars. They had been a gift from Ginny at Christmas, and in private Ron would huff about them in exasperation, although they still made Harry chuckle whenever he looked at them.

Malfoy made no comment about any of it, although Harry doubted his sharp eyes missed anything.

"What do you prefer to read?" he asked, to break the silence. "We've got a bit of everything here."

The blond youth blinked and looked at him. "I don't mind."

"Are you fussy about reading Muggle novels?" Harry pulled a couple of his Agatha Christie paperbacks from the shelf and held them out.

Malfoy accepted them gingerly. "I don't think I've ever read any. My father doesn't approve of Muggle books."

"He's not here. Live a little. Ever read any Shakespeare?"

"Of course." This was said a little stiffly. "Shakespeare was one of us, Potter."

Harry breathed a laugh. "Why does every race and nationality try to claim Shakespeare as their own? What about Dickens?" It was tempting to give him A Tale of Two Cities but Harry selected A Christmas Carol instead. That would be pointed enough. "Here, try this - it's a classic. Got anything to write with?"

"Why?"

"Oh, I don't know. I just thought you might want to write. You could keep a diary, for all I know. Or you might decide to confess all your sins."

"Unlikely." Malfoy's tone was dry, but he accepted the Dickens. "Thank you."

The door opened and Ron walked in. He stopped short at the sight of Malfoy and an indescribable expression crossed his face before his eyes met Harry's.

Malfoy's manner changed at once, his eyes narrowing and his voice sliding into the familiar poisoned-honey tone.

"Oh dear. The girlfriend's come home early."

Harry saw the muscles in Ron's jaw jump and the blue eyes began to smoulder with anger, but for a wonder he restrained himself and merely held the door open pointedly.

Malfoy took the hint, but he couldn't leave without setting a final barb in the red-head's flesh.

"Nice bed," he said as he passed him. "Very comfortable."

Harry experienced a strong desire to push him head first down the steep attic stairs. Instead, he shut the door firmly behind him and turned to look at Ron.

"What was he doing in here?" demanded Ron furiously.

"Oh, I've fulfilled a long-held ambition," Harry replied blandly. "I screwed him on our bed in ten minutes flat."

Ron's eyes widened and his mouth opened and closed silently. Harry rolled his eyes.

"I lent him a couple of books, that's all!"

"Why?"

"Because he had nothing else to do ."

"So? Who cares?" Ron stared at him. "Why do you care?"

Good question. Harry shrugged uneasily. "I don't know that I do care. It just occurs to me that a Malfoy with nothing to do is a Malfoy who's going to get up to mischief."

"So what? I vote we just keep him locked in his room while he's here. It's simpler and less annoying for everyone."

Ron stalked into the middle of the room, rubbing his hands on the seat of his jeans agitatedly. Harry watched him, wondering why he was getting so worked up. This looked like more than just annoyance over an old enemy.

"We can't do that, Ron. Those spells were set up for emergencies, and besides - he hasn't done anything."

"Yet. Yet!"

"And maybe he won't."

"Why are you defending him?"

This was hurled at him like an accusation and it was all the more disturbing to Harry because it sounded like Ron was working up to a quarrel, and the one thing they had never done so far was have a serious fight about anything.

"I didn't think I was." His own tone was quiet, defensive. "I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, though."

"That'll get you killed one day."

"Look, what's this really about?" Harry demanded. "If there's something bugging you, tell me."

There was a strained silence. Then Ron said curtly, "I don't like the way he keeps looking at you."

"Huh?" Harry stared at him, astonished. What the hell ...?

"You heard me."

"Yeah, but ...." One look at Ron's face warned Harry to be very careful what he said next. It had never been an issue before, but of the two of them Ron was definitely the one with the jealous personality and he had a quick temper to go with it.

Oh crap, Harry thought.

"I hadn't noticed," he admitted, with absolute truth.

"Yeah, I worked that out." Ron was still scrubbing his hands on his jeans nervously; clearly he wasn't happy. "He talks to you differently too."

"He does?"

"Yeah."

Actually, that was true, Harry realised. He hadn't really noticed it before, as Malfoy was projecting his usual smart-ass attitude in front of the others, albeit a somewhat subdued version. But when he had talked to Harry moments ago his whole tone and attitude were different, enough that when he spoke to Ron it was noticeable that the claws came out.

Great, just great.

"You realise he's probably doing it deliberately, to drive you nuts," Harry pointed out reasonably.

"You think?" Ron's smile was twisted, humourless.

"Well, yeah! You don't seriously think he fancies me, do you?" One look at his friend's face told him that he did. Harry stared at him helplessly. "Ron ... this is the bloke who two days ago practically called us a pair of queers to our faces. This is Malfoy. Of course he's messing with your head."

"Maybe he is and maybe he isn't," Ron said, with difficulty, "but he's living under the same roof as us, Harry, and I can't just ... ignore it."

"You've got to try, Ron, or we're all going to be at each other's throats for the next few weeks."

Ron turned away. Starting to feel a little panicky this was a wholly unfamiliar situation for him Harry tried again.

"Look, you idiot, it's not like I'm remotely interested in him. I never have been! In case you've forgotten, it wasn't Malfoy I nearly failed my NEWTs over ...."

As he had hoped, Ron gave a muffled laugh. Their seventh year at Hogwarts had certainly been something else, fraught with about a dozen different varieties of tension that made the impending NEWTs examinations seem like a side issue. Relieved, Harry grabbed his arm and gently pulled him around to face him. Ron was looking slightly pink under his freckles, the way he did when he was particularly worked up about something and trying to hide it.

The corner of Harry's mouth twitched. "Come on, don't get me started or I'll say something really embarrassing ...."

"Yeah, we wouldn't want that." But Ron's grin wavered, and his voice wobbled a little. "You know what? This has been a really crap month, all things considered."

"Yeah," Harry admitted, thinking that actually that was a huge understatement.

Unfortunately, he had a sinking feeling that the worst was yet to come.

 

End Part 11/30

 

STUDENT HOUSE RULES (as written by Mrs. Weasley and updated by Hermione)

1. There will be a House Meeting once a month to discuss finances etc. COMPULSORY FOR EVERYONE!!

2. Everyone will have at least one proper meal a day, preferably dinner; and everyone will take a turn at cooking it. The rota is:

Monday: Ginny

Tuesday: Harry

Wednesday: Ron

Thursday: Seamus

Friday: Hermione

Saturday: Dean

Sunday: Neville

If you can't do dinner on your rota day, MAKE SURE YOU SWAP WITH SOMEONE!

3. Please be considerate when taking milk, bread etc. from the kitchen. Do not empty bottles and packets without putting the item on the shopping list. Also, please try to leave the kitchen clean and tidy. Shopping duty will be undertaken by prior arrangement in the House Meeting. (And if you break a Rule, you'll get shopping duty you are WARNED! Hermione)

4. Please be considerate when using the bathroom clean up after yourself, and don't steal other people's toiletries. (That means you, Ron - Hermione)

5. Please be considerate of other residents when entertaining overnight guests, and make use of a suitable privacy spell.

6. Harry and Ron are requested to use a privacy spell EVERY NIGHT. (We don't want to know what you two get up to, thanks, guys Dean)

7. Harry and Ron are requested not to grope each other in public. (Cuz it's too weird Seamus)

8. Ginny and Hermione are requested not to leave feminine hygiene products lying around the bathroom, where they can embarrass male residents and/or guests.

9. Harry and Ron are forbidden to use the bathroom for recreational purposes unless everyone else is out of the house. (And mop up afterwards, will you? You left bubblebath on the ceiling last time Ginny)

10. Neville is requested not to Apparate into the bathroom without warning.

11. Seamus and Dean are requested not to get drunk and try out experimental charms in the living room.

12. Neville is requested not to re-pot dangerous plants in the kitchen sink. (Tentacles in the washing-up is gross, Nev Harry)

13. Harry is requested not to leave his broomstick where other people can fall over it.

14. Ginny is requested not to leave Bubotuber Solution on the bathroom shelf. (Where I can mistake it for mouthwash, thanks, Ginny Ron) (You should buy your own mouthwash anyway, instead of stealing other people's Hermione)

15. The Rules are made to be broken, ha! ha! Neville

 

 

Author's Note: I included the House Rules as an extra, but it's a pity you can't see them as they should be seen, complete with all Hermione's crossings out and notes by all the others in the margins ... oh well. I also apologise for the delay this chapter should have been posted several hours ago, but I have an ongoing domestic 'situation' which is throwing everything out. I'm sorry about that.

Moon-child Okay, I have to say this (and it's not criticism, just a comment). I'm always surprised when people say they are such-and-such a shipper and would never dream of reading a different pairing. Okay, yes, if I had to say which pairing I preferred above others, I would say Harry/Ron, and yes, there are some pairings which I'm not particularly taken with, but I'll read almost anything if it's well-written. But like I said this is not a criticism. I'm very glad that you like my story. And hey, if reading it has broadened your horizons, then I'm delighted! Welcome aboard *grin* If you're looking for other Harry/Ron recommendations, have you tried "A Lacking In Foresight" by Keeleywolf? "Hagrid's Hut" by Icarus? "Playing With Fire" by Aidan Lynch? "Closet Fears" by Kimagure? Or ... okay, I'll shut up now!

PotterBrother I'm glad you think so, but you might want to hold that opinion until you've read the whole story! I am the first person to admit that this story has faults. Anyway, I update every other day, so you won't have too long to wait for the whole thing *smile*

Beth Ann I've been thinking about his interrogation (now, when it's too late!) and they really were pushing things, weren't they? Hm ....

PoisonSnakey I hope that means you found it funny *grin*

SparkySparkles It gets better. Poor Draco .... *tries to look sorry*

Mermaid I've had a mixed relationship with slash myself, so I know where you're coming from. I'm glad you like it so far, though, and hope you continue to enjoy it.

LadyRose I've never thought of doing the Veritaserum scene, although it would be quite interesting as a one-off cookie *looks thoughtful* I'll think about that!

Nayako There will be more Harry/Ron relationship stuff, don't worry! But as you can see from this chapter, Draco's arrival complicates things a bit ....

X VeronicaX I'm glad you're enjoying it, and hope you'll stick around *smile*


Return to Archive | next | previous