Hermione and Harry looked up simultaneously at the shriek. Draco was dashing up the edge of the crater, panting and out of breath, clutching something in one hand, and waving his wand wildly in the other.
"Rabid Weasley! Run for the hills!"
He ran around the edge of the campfire, and ducked down behind Hermione.
"What?" Harry began, but by that time Ron had appeared from the cave. He'd slowed down, but seemed equally breathless; he approached them at a slower pace, taking his time in negotiating the rubble that led out of the crater.
"Hide me!" Draco squeaked, before falling into convulsive laughter.
"Someone explain what's going on?" Hermione suggested, tensely. "Did you find anything?"
"Yes," said Ron, gruffly. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. Draco might be a weedy little git, but he was deceptively fast on his feet. "We found something."
"Mine!" Draco yelped, verging on hysteria.
"Good grief. What did you to to him?" said Hermione, eyeing Draco.
"Nothing. He just thought it was an amusing idea to steal the evidence and make me chase him miles underground for it."
"You didn't have to chase him," said Harry, confused. "He'd only bring it to the Ministry.."
Ron gave Harry a withering look, and Harry shut his mouth – which surprised Harry almost as much as it surprised Ron.
"Whatever. I'm going to bed."
He shuffled away, his face coloured a red to match his hair. Hermione was sure that his flush wasn't just a byproduct of his physical exertion. She was moderately impressed with Draco – she didn't think anyone could get through that disaffected facade Ron had erected about himself.
She nudged Draco with a finger. "So, what did you two find?"
Draco, still wheezing, opened his hand. Hermione took the medallion from him, turning it over in her palm. Harry crawled forwards to see better.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Some sort of – medallion, I guess," said Hermione, lamely. "I've never seen anything like it before." She passed it to Harry, who turned it over in his hands, looking just as flumoxed. He gave it back – and she returned it to Draco.
"You'd better take that to the Ministry, and see what they make of it. Or get Ron to owl his brother, I think he's still involved in dragon breeding."
"Right," Draco gasped. "Did you see his face? My stars.."
"You really pissed him off," said Harry, without much enthusiasm.
"Did I ever! I've never seen anyone growl like that before." Draco shoved the medallion carelessly into his pocket. "I thought he was going to hit me."
"He probably would have, if you'd stood still," said Hermione. She brushed her hands over her knees. "Well, there's my job done, I think. Viktor will be waiting for me – I'll port home. I'll leave my tent with you, though, if you like. If you plan to sleep out, I mean."
"We might," said Harry, looking to Draco for confirmation.
"Too dark too fly. No portkey," Draco yawned.
"We will, then. Thank you, Hermione." Harry smiled.
Hermione hugged and kissed him before she left. Returning to her tent to gather her bag, she felt slightly amused. It was just like their first years at school, really – Draco taunting Harry and Ron, whilst she played the unwilling mediator, trying to break up the boy's fights. Except now there was the whole Harry-Draco issue, and Ron.. well, Ron had changed.
She wasn't particulary tired, though, despite her difficult day. Infact, talking about Harry's relationship problems made her only too ready to get back to her lover. Reaching for her portkey, she hoped Viktor was at home ready for her with whipped cream and his handcuffs.
Scrabble, really. She laughed at the idea. Harry could be so naive – he probably still imagined her as the same fuddy-duddy he'd known through school. Not likely, Hermione thought, smiling. She could be wild when she wanted to be. Very wild, actually – almost too much for Viktor to handle. And Viktor was a real man – not a chittering idiot like Draco, or a neurotic like Harry.
Viktor was tall, dark and handsome; brooding, strong, simply – masculine. He really was everything Hermione had ever wanted in a partner.
It was a pity that he still couldn't pronounce her name. But that, Hermione felt, would come in time.
"Get off me. I'm not in the mood." Draco slapped away Harry's hands, and rolled over in his sleeping bag. Harry was left staring at the back of Draco's blonde head, an odd twitch twisting his mouth.
"I came here to spend time with you," he said, quietly.
"Really? All you've done since arrived has been to prattle away to Granger."
"I haven't seen her in ages –"
"And now you don't even want to talk to me. You're just interested in sex."
"You never change. Ever. Still the same whining little kid you always were, all hormones and no bloody manners. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with you. Why I ever bothered with you, really. Maybe I was just star-struck – every one loves Harry Potter, right? Everyone wants a piece of your celebrity skin. Maybe I just wanted to be first in. But I have to tell you, Harry – the novelty is seriously wearing off."
Harry couldn't breathe. All the air had gone from his lungs. He felt his fingers claw into his thighs, and his eyelids were heavy. He didn't know how he remained upright – the slightly breeze, he thought, would topple him.
"You don't mean that, Draco."
Draco's voice was lazily self-assured.
"Oh, but don't I, Harry?"
Harry let out a wounded sound, something high pitched and broken. He had to get out, now – he couldn't stay. The air in the tent was thick, molten. It ached his lungs, his brain. He was weeping – he could feel his cheeks were wet, and the convulsions of his shoulders. He tore away from Draco, scrabbling at the zip of the tent flaps like a mad man. Out, he needed out! away from those silver eyes and that pale skin, and that piercing serpent tongue.
He burst out into the night, on his hands and knees. The stones cut into his skin, into the soft flesh of his palms. Not here, he thought. I can't break down here. Have to.. get out..
Behind him, Draco rose to a sitting position, peering over the edge of the blanket.
"And you need a haircut," he yelled after Harry.
Harry let out another sob-scream and ran. Draco yawned, and sprawled back. The tent had been too small for two people, anyway. He wasn't worried in the slightest. He knew Harry would be back soon – Harry always was. And Draco didn't think Harry would fare particulary well out in the wilds an English wood, wearing only his underwear.
Padding up a pillow made of his discarded clothing, Draco leant his head down, and closed his eyes.
He was startled from sleep a few minutes later; someone was climbing into the tent. He didn't open his eyes.
"That didn't take long," he mumbled. "Getting a little better at the old wrist action, eh?"
"Like you wouldn't believe, sir."
Draco jumped, jerking his knees to his chest. Ron stared beligerently at him, squatting just inside the tent flaps. He was still dressed, but his red hair was awry – he must have tried to sleep fully clothed.
"What is it, Weasley?" Draco spat – more startled than angry.
"Heard screaming," Ron explained, simply. He crawled further inside. "Thought a girl was in trouble. A real hero, me."
"No, that's Harry. He always screams like that." Draco wrapped his arms about his thin legs, suddenly very aware he was naked beneath the sleeping bag. "Well – you've done your samaritan piece, now.. Thank you, and good night."
"Not quite, Malfoy. You have something I want."
"I'm afraid to inform you that there's a waiting list on my body," said Draco. "What say I schedule you in sometime around next Monday?"
"Don't be sick," said Ron, wrinkling his nose. "I want that medallion. I'm going to owl Charlie about it in the morning."
"Owl away. But I'm keeping the medallion for the moment."
Ron scratched his head, thoughtfully. "What if I made you give it to me."
"I'm holding my wand right now," Draco lied. "Make any funny moves and you'll be pissing through your navel for a month."
"Isn't that your wand right there, tangled up in Harry's sleeping bag?" Ron asked.
"Um," said Draco.
"It is, isn't it?" said Ron.
"Maybe," Draco admitted.
Ron laughed, and gave Draco a light punch on his sleeping-bag covered shins. Draco smiled tensely.
"I'm not going to hit you, Draco," said Ron, presently. "If you want to do things your way, who am I to blow against the wind, right? I just figured that we should get this affair sorted out as fast as possible, and the best way to do that would be to leave it all in Charlie's capable hands."
"Like I said, owl him. Get him to meet me at my house sometime tomorrow. I'll take care of the medallion until then."
Ron shrugged. "If you say so." He looked toward the tent flaps, frowning. "What happened to Harry to make him scream?" he asked.
"I told him a few home truths. They seemed to hit all the right sore points."
"Aren't you worried about him?"
"He'll come back. He always does."
Draco extended his legs again, purposefully laying them over Ron's knees. The sleeping bag rolled down off his chest in the motion, and he didn't move to pull it up again. Part of him wandered sleepily what he was doing, what he was thinking of doing. He ran a hand lightly over his ribs, a gesture that could easily be mistaken for a stretch, and just as easily be mistaken for something more – suggestive.
Ron, for his part, seemed unphased by Draco's impertinence. He fiddled for a cigarette, and lit up inside the tent, narrowly missing setting the roof of the tent alight. He flicked ash through the open flaps.
"Dirty habit," Draco drawled.
"But by no means the dirtiest," Ron replied.
Draco shifted his body, moving closer. He was usually adept at reading signs in people – the language of attraction. But Ron was a closed book to him; he wasn't even sure if Ron understood – whatever it was Draco intended. Draco wasn't sure he understood it, even. Ron appeared oblivious to Draco's overtures. Or perhaps he was willfully ignoring them.
"So – are you going to leave?" Draco asked, quietly.
"Naw. Can't sleep."
"Right. That's why you're here in my tent. For conversation."
"I was hoping the sound of you droning on would lull me to sleep."
"People do say my voice has a soothing quality."
"To your face."
Draco narrowed his eyes. "What the hell is wrong with you, Weasley?" he snapped. "Are you taunting me like this for fun?"
Ron looked at him, illuminated by the red tip of his cigarette. He was handsome, Draco thought – not classically so, but in a rugged sort of way. He had a lived in look, something of the bad boy about him, not in the cold and pretty way Draco did, but in a world weary, unshaven fashion. Ron just – didn't care.
"Maybe," he said.
Draco swallowed, thickly. Mustering up what courage he could, he made the audacious move of wrapping his legs tighter around Ron's, his shoulders leant forwards almost to touch Ron's. Ron looked away, but Draco thought the man's body stiffened, slightly.
"And I suppose you're crawling onto me for the warmth, right, Draco."
"No." Draco shook his head.
"What about Harry?"
"There's trouble in the paradise of Malfoy manor," said Draco, watching the end of Ron's cigarette. The smell of it was making him giddy. "Tears and tantrums. You know how it goes."
"No. I don't."
"It's not pretty. I'll tell you that much." Draco's fingers went to Ron's wrist, tentatively circling it. "Well – Ron?"
Ron was mildly amused. He looked from Draco's fingers to the man's worried, pale face. This was something he'd never anticipated happening – to say the least. Draco, flirting with him? Draco Malfoy actually stooping to lure a Weasley into his bed? If Draco hadn't looked so serious at that moment Ron would probably have laughed.
"Well Ron what, Draco."
"Do you – want to do something?"
Draco's fingers tightened about Ron's wrist; he tried to pull the man's hand lower, but Ron resisted.
"I don't think so, Draco."
"I'm afraid I don't swing that way. Not even with the push I'm sure your authority could lend you. And I'm not that damn eager for a raise."
"Sorry, Draco. You'll have to find some other red-head to jump. This one isn't in the running, I'm afraid." He twisted his hand out of Draco's grasp, and flicked his cigarette away. "I guess I'll just have to be the one that got away, right?"
Draco's lower lip trembled. He'd never been rejected before, in his entire life, though he'd rejected hundreds himself. It hurt. He refused to accept it. In the confusion of his thoughts he pushed himself suddenly forwards – no, he wouldn't let Ron get away this easily. No one got away from Draco Malfoy. His arms wrapped around Ron's shoulders, and before the man could push him away, his teeth gripped Ron's lips. Not kissing – biting – ferocious, angry tearing.
Ron made some muffled sound of surprise, and then another in pain. He rocked back against Draco, forcing Draco's thin body down onto the ground as he strained to pull free of the arms which encircled him, binding. He grunted – Draco was trying to drag his legs from the sleeping bag, to chain his waist, too. But while Draco might be quicker, Ron was definately stronger – he wrested his head at least from Draco's teeth.
"Let me go," he said, softly, panting.
"Can't. Won't." The silver eyes flashed, wild and feral as an animal's.
"If you don't," said Ron, "I will hurt you, Draco."
"Hurt me, then."
"If you say so."
Ron balled a fist, and smacked Draco as hard as he could in the side – not as hard as he might have, given the closeness of their bodies, but it was enough to make Draco gasp and release him. Ron pushed up, grabbing Draco's arms in the same movement and pinning them to the man's chest. He was aware his lip was bleeding – he licked at it as Draco struggled.
"Y-you hit me."
"You kissed me. I think all's fair in love and war."
"Love hurts," Draco moaned.
"Yes," said Ron. "Yes it does." He swung himself off Draco, his hands still shackling Draco's forearms.
"Harry's too good for you," Ron muttered.
Draco smirked – there was blood on his lips too, and the contrast between his pale skin and the red made him look somewhat sinister in the semi-darkness.
"So he'd be better off with you, then? Is that it?"
"Don't be stupid," said Ron.
"Oh, I know your game now," said Draco, grinning cruelly. "Try to seduce me, so you can tear Harry away. Now I understand why you hated me all through school. You wanted Harry, didn't you? You were in love with him."
"I'm not even going to gratify that with a reply," said Ron, shaking his head again. He looked repulsed at the idea of it – he let go of Draco's hands. "Good bye, Draco. I'll send Charlie around to take care of things."
"You want Harry," Draco yelped, an index jabbing the air as he dragged himself upright again. "That's it. You cunning bastard."
"I said good bye, Draco." Ron crawled through the tent flaps.
"Wait. No. You can't go!" Draco cried, struggling after him. Naked, his bare feet cut against the stones. Ron was a short distance away, walking with his head down back to his own tent. He didn't look back. Draco dashed after him, barely noticing the pain in his feet. "Ron. Ron!"
Then Ron stopped, shortly, and Draco ran full tilt into his back. He bounced off, almost losing his balance. He gripped onto Ron's waistband to steady himself, a complaint readying itself on his lips.
"..shit," said Ron. It was a weak, exhausted word. Draco looked past him, around the man's shoulder.
Harry was standing by a burnt tree – just standing there in his underwear, his features caught in some horrible grimace, gleaming wet with his tears. He'd seen it all. His green eyes met Draco's, his glasses frosted and blurred.
Then he was gone, his broomstick in his hands, soaring up into the night sky.
Draco let go of Ron's waistband reluctantly.
"Bugger," said Draco.
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