Fic: My Old Ways, 3/6 (Harry/Draco, NC-17) for heathen_ursidae Author:derryere Recipient:heathen_ursidae Title: My Old Ways Rating: NC-17 Pairing(s): Harry/Draco Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters engaging in sexual activity are 16 years or older. Also, Nick Hornby's How To Be Good has inspired so much of this it needs to be credited/praised to a sickening degree. Summary: In trying to become a better person, Harry seeks the help of a certain professional. Warnings: *deep breath* plot-induced OOCness, AU for serious muggle lifestyle, language, boysex, hetsex, crack, feelings, flangst, canon-pairings, first-person, a lot of words, and the weird. Loads of weird. Word Count: 54K Author's Notes: Hellooo, heathen_ursidae! One of your prompts mentioned 'an awkward moment escaping an orgy gone wrong', and that's where I started. Originally. Where I ended up is—Well, the orgy somehow disappeared while the awkward and the things going wrong stayed put. Despite the lack of that main element, I hope very, very, very very very much that you might still enjoy some of it :) I'd like to thank the mods for giving me more time than anyone should get, and my beta, J, who did this at a superhuman speed. Any remaining mistakes are the product of own stoopid.
7. THE TIME I BROUGHT FIXIT HOME
and realised how this new decision might weird out everyone I know including me
Before, when we were in the car, Dr Nuts-o suddenly leans over and tries to touch my face. We were just waiting at some traffic lights and he goes weird on me, closing his eyes and then just—undoing his belt, and trying to pull my ears or something. Maybe you can imagine how that would freak me out, in the middle of bloody traffic.
So I jumped away a bit, pressing sideways against the car door and shouted What the fuck! at him. He just started laughing, holding up his hands in defence and saying, It's okay, I'm not doing anything.
But it wasn't okay, really, because he can't just do that—out of no-where like that. So I kept on yelling things like, You can't do that! and, Hands to your fucking self, Malfoy! and, This is a car, OK! and, What the hell were you thinking?
He didn't seem at all disturbed by anything. Except for maybe that I called him Malfoy. He told me that raising my voice wouldn't solve any of my issues concerning physical contact, and after I shouted at him that no, maybe it wouldn't solve it but it sure as hell made it better, he told me that I should calm down because all he was trying to do was read me.
And when someone tells you they're going to read you, there's little else you can do but calm down because of how ridiculous that sounds. I loosened my grip on the wheel and asked him, then, exactly what the goddamn hell that meant. He explained that's what he did, when he 'Fixed' people. I suppose that's what he did at the theatre, with that Ian guy and with that homeless kid. I suppose that's what he's done with all those people who believe him.
"I touch the earlobes," he told me. "And then I know. I know exactly what's wrong, and I know exactly how to fix it. Ha ha, fix-it."
I told him that there was not a snowball's chance he was fondling my earlobes anytime soon. He said that that was okay, for me to take my time in coming to terms with his gift, and then we pulled up my street. I'd spent fifteen minutes in the car with Malfoy and I was having murderous tendencies. I was going to have to get better at this.
Now, with a moment to myself while he's taking a shower, I'm thinking that maybe I've made a very, very big mistake. I've given him the guestroom, and I was just showing him around—bed here, window there, door here—when he put his hand to the wall and said that the place had very good energy. "This is a good thing," he'd said. "I can feel that this is going to be a good thing."
So I went downstairs, collapsed on the couch, and thought about how this is so not going to be a good thing. Not to mention it just occurred to me that I'm not the only person in my life, and that somehow, I'm going to have to break this to my close circle of friends. 'Listen up guys,' I would say to the small gathering in my living room. 'I ran into Draco Malfoy the other day, and turns out he's a homeless spiritual healer who's lost his marbles.' 'Oh,' Hermione would reply, happily. 'So you took him in, naturally?' 'Of course I did,' I would reply. 'That's just the kind of person that I am.' Ron would clap my back and nod, proudly, while Neville and Ginny exchange knowing looks. 'That's our Harry,' Neville would say. 'You just try and keep him from doing good!'
I sigh, hiding my face in the crook of my arm. I miss the smell that Ginny brings into the room, and her ability to keep me from doing stupid things. I vaguely entertain the notion that we'd never get back together, but that doesn't seem at all that plausible. Somehow, I just can't take this break-up seriously.
A rattling sound from nearby catches my attention, and for a moment I think Draco Malfoy is done with my shower (oh, man, who would've ever thought). I drop my arm, squinting around the fireplace-lit room and it takes me a moment to recognise the louder-getting sound of an incoming floo. I have exactly three seconds to panic before the fire flares up in bright green and coughs up a frazzled looking Ron Weasley.
I sit up with a start, but then remain frozen as I watch him look around the room in odd astonishment. He's holding on to his old suitcase, which he drops almost immediately. There's still ash on his clothes and in his hair, and some of it flitters to the carpet when he turns his head abruptly to me and says,
"I did it."
I stare at him.
He barks out a short, incredulous laugh. "I can't believe I did it."
"Ron," I say, stomach churning uncomfortably. "What did you do?"
"This is wonderful!" he replies, wildly shaking his hair to get the dirt out. "This is—"
I hear the familiar buzzing of the pipes stop as the water is being turned off upstairs. I hope Ron doesn't notice and I get off the couch to make a point of asking,
"Ron, Ron—what happened?" Or, on second thought, "Why d'you have a suitcase?"
"It's okay if I stay with you, right?" he asks looking up at me, beaming. "It'll be great, Harry. You, me, the good old bachelor—"
"You don't need to stay with me, Ron," I explain to him. "You have a home, remember? With lots of rooms, all of which are fit for entertaining human presence. You live there, and so does Hermione. Your wife."
When Ron shakes his head, I feel like almost puking. I wonder whether my bohemian-moustache man prophecy came true after all.
"Not anymore, mate," he says. "I left."
"Remember what we were talking about the other day? About how she never told me anything, her being unhappy and all and how she was messing around with other blokes?"
"Yeah," I tell him, finishing with a hollow laugh. "And about half of that was all in your head."
"No, you don't get it. After I came here yesterday, right, I went back home and told Hermione about how you'd gone a bit loopy—no offence—with the whole doing-good thing and you know what she said?"
"Shit," is my reply as I hear a door open upstairs.
"No. She said, 'Harry's a grown man, he can screw up all he wants now!'" He pulls a deeply outraged face, involving me in his shock. "Can you fucking believe that?"
I shoot a quick glance at the stairwell, relieved that you can't see up the landing from where we're standing. I please Ron with a faintly distracted, "Did she really say 'screw up', Ron?"
"Well, no, she said something about mistakes but—mate, that's not the point! The point is that you're my best friend, right, and that if you're about to do something crazy I should be here to, I don't know, to kick you in the balls if that's what it takes and Hermione, she just didn't get that. So I told her that, I said, I can't believe you don't get this, after all these years and—"
"—Oh, Ron, mate, please don't tell me you—"
"—So then she said—mate, listen to this, she said: 'what's so wrong with Harry wanting to do good, anyway?' And I said, you know, what are you trying to say? And then she said it wouldn't hurt me to do some good. So I was like, Hello, did you forget that bit about me helping to save the bloody world?"
"Oy," I cringe a little. "Wrong comeback, mate."
"Yeah, well, I know that now. She got real mad, Harry, and then I got really pissed too and she said something about having to work at things we appreciate and not just do something proper once and then leave it to quietly die, and then—some words about taking things for granted, I think. And I'm not a genius, right? I'm not. But I can tell when that woman is talking about our, you know, Relationship when we're actually trying to discuss something that's also important. Like you going nutty."
"Thanks," I reply dryly, trying to usher him out of the living room with two hands on his back as he rambles on over his shoulder.
"And I can take a hint, Harry. I can take a hint. But I remembered what you said, about not being so unsure when it comes to Hermione, right, so I decided to cool off first and try to talk again when we weren't trying to throw stuff at each other. But then today, during dinner, we're talking about visiting you for moral support with the whole Ginny thing and suddenly she looks up and goes, 'they're both single now.' And I say, yeah, I know. And she says, 'Don't you ever miss it? Being single?'"
He stops, raising his eyebrows with that same face of incredulity. He's waiting for me to join him in his disbelief. We're in the kitchen and I've shoved a water glass into his hand, but he doesn't notice it. He's waving his hand as he's talking, water splashing on the floor, so I take it away from him again and put it on the table.
"So I thought, you know, I'm not going to get my heart broken by this girl. I saw it coming, right? You didn't see it coming with Ginny—no offence—but I did see it coming. So I thought, I'm gonna beat her to it. And that's when I did it. I left. And now I'm here." He manages a shaky smile, and I can see that despite it all he's actually scared to absolute death. "So I can stay here, right?"
I sigh. "You're a very stupid man, you know that?"
He ignores me. "The guestroom's opposite the loo, right?" He brushes past me without waiting for an answer, keeping on with his unbothered—"We should get proper smashed tonight, mate. Celebrate our singleness. Singlehood? Or—Bachelorhood. Yeah."
I take a small moment to blink before rushing after him, planning on grabbing his arm before he picks up his suitcase to sets toward the stairs. I have no good excuse at hand, so I'm stuck, open-mouthed and hapless as Ron whoops,
"Random anonymous sex, here we COME!"
"Ron—Don't—" I quickly pad behind him. "I'm, uuh—building—painting—the—"
"Awesome," he says, setting up the stairs three at a time with his freakishly long legs. "I heard paint has a calming effect, if you know what I mean. As in, calming, y'know." He grins at me, but the smile falters for a second as he adds, "Or was that glue?"
Then, just then, I decide this isn't worth the trouble. I consider sending a curse up the stairwell, I consider shouting something that would somehow convey the message of 'Ron is coming upstairs and I want you to lock yourself in the bathroom right now' without raising suspicion or using too many words, but—just, fuck it. He was going to find out sooner or later anyway.
I slump a little against the railing, watching Ron disappear up the landing. I breathe in, and I find it in myself to chance an ironic smile before setting after him—up the stairs.
I am there just in time to see Ron jump back from the guestroom doorway with a shrill yelp. He presses himself back against the hallway wall, head giving minute, jerky shakes of shock. Then, suddenly, as if realising what he's seeing, his hands shoot up to his face and he covers his eyes with a deeply disgusted grunt.
I saunter toward him, already anticipating the sight inside my guestroom. I peek inside, and indeed there is Draco Malfoy, sitting on the camp bed, freshly showered and naked as they come.
"Hey," I say with a small smile. "Ron just broke up with his wife. He'll be crashing here as well."
"Oh," Draco says, happily surprised and still quite naked. And then, gesturing to the blinded Ron, "Is he okay?"
"He'll be fine. Hey, you're naked," I add, hoping this might bring change to the situation.
"Yes," he says. "I am. I enjoy being naked."
"Cool," I say, wondering when I'd moved on from normal sarcasm and into a whole new realm of irony. "Well, we'll be downstairs if you need us. Good luck being naked."
Draco smiles in acknowledgement, nodding, and I close the door. The heels of Ron's hands are still dug deeply into his eye sockets, and when the effort of trying to peel them off his face proves quite fruitless I set to manoeuvring back downstairs with two guiding hands on his shoulders. It's only when I've got him in a chair and a happily coloured mug with some whiskey in it (we are not a heavy drinking household, therefore there are no tiny glasses for shots of any kind. But since 'we' has since recently turned into 'just Harry', then 'Harry and Dr Fixit' then 'Harry, Dr Fixit and newly-divorcee-Ron', I'm thinking some serious drinking in serious measurements is entitled), that he slowly lets his hands droop off his face.
"Harry," is what he starts with, staring down into his mug. "There's a Draco Malfoy in your home."
"He—" He looks up, swallowing. His mouth opens, lips moving at a loss for words until eventually he comes up with the two-syllable exclamation of an awed, "Naked."
"I know, Ron." I nod him to his mug, urging him to have some. "It'll be okay, though."
He takes a healthy gulp then, making a face as it goes down. "I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for this," he says, voice a bit hoarse from alcohol. "And that in a few hours we'll be laughing at this, and all, but I think that you should know that what just happened," he pauses for effect, "was the scariest shit I've ever seen my life."
I can't help but give a shaky laugh at this. You can say what you want about Ron and his smarts, and maybe yeah—he's not the kind of guy you'd want around when solving that two-talking-doorknobs riddle in a real-life situation, but when you're drunk or stupid and you've just done something really weird and all you need is someone who's right down there on your level, you'll be happy you have a Ron. And even if you're not happy to have him, he'll still be there, making you laugh, because that's just the kind of person he is.
"Remember the list that I made, Ron?" I ask as he chugs down some more of the drink. "Because I wanted to do good?"
Ron makes a chortling noise to underline the ridiculousness of that question. Of course he remembered—look where it got him.
"Well, as it turns out, Malfoy is . . . well, both number one and two."
He frowns at me. "He's what?"
"Homeless," I explain, quickly. "And probably hungry too, come to think of it. Diseased. And dirty." Exaggerating suddenly seems like a brilliant plan. "Definitely crazy, too."
"Oh, Harry, no. No no. Please tell me you didn't—"
"It's just for a while, Ron. I just—I couldn't let him rot away on the streets in the dead of winter, could I? I couldn't—"
"What about me, then? I'm—Oh god, where I'm I going to—?"
"You can sleep on the couch, mate. There's plenty of space."
"So that's it, then? Draco bloody Malfoy, the bum who, if I need to remind you, when we last saw tried to get us killed in one way or another, gets the guestroom and me—your best friend who just separated from his wife, mind—I get the couch."
"Well, when you put it like that . . ." I pause, but can't think of anything better. "Yes. Basically."
Ron empties his mug, setting it down with force and swallowing with a grimace. To make it even better just then Draco shuffles into the kitchen, miraculously wearing the bathrobe I'd given him. It's pink and used to be Ginny's. He smiles at us, as if he hasn't just walked in on a conversation at all, and moves to open a few cabinets—completely at ease in this new environment. Unabashed, is a better word. Eventually he finds the one with glasses, takes one, and fills it with water. Just like that. Ron and I stare in wonder.
"Hello," he says, turning to lean back against the counter, casually sipping at his glass. "How are you doing, Ronald?"
Ron blinks at him before looking in my direction and asking, lowly, "Is he talking to me?"
I shrug, apologetically.
"Sorry I caught you off guard like that," Draco continues. "I sometimes forget how frightening nudity can be to some."
Ron stares at him some more, and while I know I should say something before things get worse, I also want to see how this plays out just a little longer. It's nice to see other people react to Malfoy's insanity, knowing I'm not the only one gobsmacked by the weirdness of it all.
"What?" Ron replies, stretching out the word as much as he can.
"Nudity," Draco clarifies. "Of course I completely accept that it is a life choice that may not appeal to everyone. It's simply easy to forget how—"
"Is he taking the piss?" Ron asks me.
I shake my head, sadly. "Draco is a spiritual healer now," I say, trying to emphasise my feelings by articulating everything to the extreme.
"Fixit," he corrects me. And then, to Ron, "My name's Fixit now. I've had a rebirth."
Slowly, Ron turns to me. And I just love the look on his face. I fucking love it.
"He's had a rebirth," I confirm.
A quick, unsure smile flitters over Ron's features twice before a definite grin sets in. And when he says, "What?" again, there's only astonished amusement in his voice.
"Why don't you let me, Fixit?" I ask, wanting to ease Ron into what'll come next. Draco raises his glass to me in permission, so I address Ron with a tight expression. "The thing is," I start, "Draco, Fixit, has—well, seen the err of his ways, I suppose, and has transformed himself into . . ." I clear my throat as Ron's eyes widen beyond their human capacity. "He now dedicates his life to helping people."
"With my gift," Draco supplies.
"With his gift."
"I fix people," he adds. "Or at least I do my best."
It's silent for a moment. Ron's eyes dart from me to Draco, as if he's not sure which one of us is going to psyche him first. Then, when nothing particularly exciting happens, he throws back his head and explodes in a fit of laughter so loud Draco jumps a little. I can only close my eyes and wait—I saw it coming.
Ron takes his time in this. The rolling laughter tips over into the shaky, silent kind, with his face buried in his arms—supported by the table. Every now and then he'd calm down, but then glance up at Draco in his sister's pink bathrobe and the whole thing would start anew. "Oh, fuck, ouch," he'd breathe out, clutching to his midsection. "No—freaking—ouch—"
I look over to Draco to see if there's any sign of indignation or perhaps even anger. There's nothing. He just looks at Ron with odd patience, quietly drinking his water.
"All right," I say, suddenly awkward. "I think you've made your point, mate."
Ron takes in a few deep breaths, shallow giggles heaving at his chest still. He shakes his head, marvelling at Draco. "This is amazing," he says. "I mean, of course I've dreamed about this day, but I never actually thought . . ."
"I'm glad I brought some happiness into your life, Ron Weasley," Draco says with a genuine expression.
"Oh, you've brought happiness into my life, all right. So what are you, like," he shrugs, "a Buddhist, or something?"
"Ron," I say, and it comes out as a warning, even though I don't know why.
"Sort of," Draco says.
"But you won't hit me or anything?" Ron keeps on. "If I say you're a filthy cocksocker, you wouldn't try to hit me in the face, right?"
Draco makes a cringing face at this. "I don't believe in violence," he says. "But you really shouldn't use that kind of language. It's quite insulting."
"Brilliant," Ron marvels. Then, to me, "This is brilliant, Harry."
"It really isn't, Ron."
"But it is," he insists, getting to his feet to further inspect Draco. He stands rather close, hands in his pockets as he rocks a bit back and forth on his heels as he says, "So. No violence, huh?"
I push my chair back, muttering a quick, "Ron, don't."
"What?" he throws over his shoulder. "I'm not doing anything."
I raise my eyebrows at him, and he brushes me off, turning to Draco again.
"How about alcohol, then?" he wants to know.
Draco smiles—does this even need mentioning anymore?—all mellow friendliness, and replies, "No. No alcohol."
"How long's this been, then?"
"Five years. Best five years of my life."
"Fair enough," Ron says, making a mock-impressed face. "How about sex, then? Still getting some of the old in and out? Y'know. Feeding the monkey. Doing the deed."
"Oy, Ron," I stand up as I interject, suddenly embarrassed of how I've been planning to attack Draco with more or less the same set of questions only to get some kind of reaction out of him. It seems stupid, now, and oddly mean.
"It's only fair, Harry," Ron says in reply. "I mean, I've had to see him naked. Without warning, mate. He was nude."
"Yeah, but you were fully dressed," I reason. "If anyone gets an embarrassment free-pass, it's him."
"Only he didn't mind. While me, on the other hand—"
"I'm right here," Draco says, raising a weakly waving hand. "Right here."
We both turn to look at him, a little surprised with how humour isn't beyond him. A moment of uncomfortable silence follows, and—as it would be—is eventually broken by Ron's bottled up question of,
"So what would you do if I'd flick your nose?"
"Don't flick his nose," I say.
"Why would you flick my nose?" Draco wants to know.
"Well." Ron thinks about it. "I don't really like you. Plus you were a real bastard at school. Plus I've never really met a pacifist before, and I've always wanted to know how they'd react to—"
"Do not flick his nose, Ron. Seriously."
"Let the man speak for himself, Harry."
Draco, after some deliberation, then answers, "I suppose I'd be quite disappointed with you, Ron. But I still wouldn't think flicking you back would solve our problem, really."
"All right," Ron says. "That's good enough for me. I'm gonna do it."
"Don't do it, Ron."
"I'm gonna do it."
"Don't. Please, do not—"
In a flash, Ron's hand is out of his pocket and in front of Draco's face—his fingers shooting out to flick his nose from a sideway angle. I see it happen, I see the way Draco's nose bends to the tiny blow and the way he scrunches back in discomfort, and think that this is most definitely the weirdest evening of my life.
"Great," I say as Draco rubs his nose, shaking his head in disapproval. "Are you happy now?" I ask Ron.
"Yes," Ron says, a slow smile spreading over his face. "I think I might be, yes."
8. THE CLICK THAT RON GOT AND I DIDN'T
and maybe perhaps the last thing I'd expected to ever happen
It's Saturday but I wake up early anyway. It's not exactly the fact that there are two people sleeping in my house that don't really belong there—that's the thing that kept me up for the most part of the night—the thing that actually gets me out of bed at five thirty, is the knowledge I've been blowing off work ever since Wednesday and that while it's been fun and all, Ginny leaving and being good and taking in homeless people and somehow getting Ron to run away from home, I can't ignore being a grown up for as long as I used to five or six years ago.
I bet you're wondering what it is that I do.
You'll never guess.
Go head, then. No, really, go ahead. Guessing? Yes?
Wrong. Or, well, partially wrong. I actually did apply for Auror training. And I definitely got started, once, and I really wasn't half bad when it came to kicking butt within the walls of the academy—although I did have to retake the ethics test a few times. Something about quick judgement or whatever. Anyway, it was when the actual field work started that things sort of blew up in my face. The one part I'd overlooked, the one part everyone somehow overlooked, was that it was very, very hard to be stealthy and authoritative when a bunch of reporters with cameramen in their wake are following you around going, 'How are you feeling about your first day out, Potter? Do you think you're doing better than the others? Worse? Is this truly what you would call your calling? Is it true you're contemplating buying a pool with a trampoline as a floor? How many times have you been to the bathroom today, and do you think that affects your ability to function properly as an upcoming Auror?'
It also didn't help that the people I was supposed to apprehend recognised me before I'd even approached and would either disappear in a poof of smoke or let me cuff them on terms that I'd sign their arm. Once, a kid who'd been artsing up a wall with moving graffiti replied on being asked what he thought he was doing: 'yo, man, my mates will never believe me. Oh—mate, mate, can you like, speak in my ansafone message? That'd be wicked cool, yeah.' On which he took out an odd looking mobile phone that seemed to have been put together with bits of a broken wireless—a volume knob, an antenna, and what seemed to be a miniature saxophone mouthpiece on one end. The kid then held it to my face, and waited for me to say something.
What was I supposed to do, really?
So I swore. Loudly. Profusely. The kid had whooped in delight, telling me I was gold, and that his mates would never believe this shit. My partner at the time, Koenig, was not pleased. The incident was forwarded to the main office. A briefing was called, lengthy discussions with the board followed and a conclusion was reached that while I was, quote 'clearly Auror material' end quote, my value was 'in conflicted' with my general 'public identity'. Oh, cor, did I lose it at that moment. All that work, all the bullshit I'd put up with, all the worlds that I'd saved (ok, so, only one world, but it's the only one we've got—so I'm guessing it counts for a few in the least)—only to be. Well. For a lack of a better word, cockblocked by the very thing that got me there. It was a hard pill to swallow, I'll tell you that. Also, a voice recording of me swearing started circulating the network right about that period. It's still out there, somewhere. They tend to use it as a jingle on the wireless sometimes. It's funny now, yeah—but at the time? Not so much giggles going on in the Potter household, no.
After that it took me a while to do anything at all. I felt all the things you'd expect anyone in my situation to feel: angry, frustrated, betrayed, purposeless—that regular cocktail of emotions you get when a cause you've been supporting half your life turns on you. It wasn't that big of a deal in the end when I decided to do something that didn't have much to do with the Ministry or even magic at all. What I did was this: I made a list of all the things I liked to do and all the things I was good at, gave it to Hermione and told her to think of a job that would include most of those. I told her that whatever she came up with, I'd do it. No questions asked. I just needed someone to tell me what to do with my life.
Yes, I can hear you groaning your protests already. That's not how it works bla bla you need to decide for yourself bla bla only way you'll be happy yadda yadda—Well, that all may sound nice when a fancy guy with a moustache says that on TV, but that doesn't mean it's not a load of bull. Hermione, who'd warily become a supporter of my stupidity over the years once we established it couldn't get me killed any longer, took my list and got back to me a couple of days later with the announcement that I'd be fairly good at building houses. Explanation: I like working with my hands. I'm good at digging. I want to do something that'd contribute to societies. I have a deep-rooted psychological issues with families and homes, and I have a general knowledge of blueprints. Although the latter was a pretty weak argument.
I thought about it for a moment, and then I said, 'OK.' And that was that. At first I was very excited and had an intricate plan that involved pro-bono work and orphanages, which sounded great but turned out to be not so great. I had money, sure, I just didn't have that much money. It worked out in the end, though. It's a small business now, if you can call it a business, and we build houses. Or, as the more idealistic under us like to call it, 'giving people their homes'. But really, they're just houses. And when I say 'we', I mean me and the twelve people I've hired to do all the complicated work for me. It's not that I am hiding in the muggle world, because we're not even that known or well-liked in the non-magical community—but there are plenty wizards out there who want a house that's been built by Harry Potter. Muggle style is pretty popular. And I'm cool with that now. I've come to terms with that. It helps that I like it, too. I really like digging, and drilling, and hitting nails into wood. I'm good at it. The papers make jokes sometimes, but I've heard it all before. It's an all right way to make a living.
And since it's mine, I don't really have to show up every single day. Which is lovely.
Today, though, I think is time to show up. I try to worry about leaving Ron with Draco, but can't muster more than a half-hearted mental shrug. What's the worse that can happen? They should break down the place. I could come home and there would be a pile of rubble at the end of the pathway. In a way that doesn't seem so bad.
I think about that as I brush my teeth, chewing on the tooth brush as I scour the room for clean clothes. Rationally speaking, it would save a lot of time if you'd to start over. No moving furniture or finding someone to buy the house—just, bam. All of it collapsing into itself. Awesome.
I can't find my cleanest button-down shirt, and think maybe I've left it downstairs. I try to be quiet as I pad down the hallway and down the stairs, mindful of sleeping houseguests. My momentary kindness, though, is abruptly smothered when I hear quiet voices murmuring in the kitchen. It's nearly six, and the season would make sure light doesn't reach my living room windows for a good hour or two. So it's dark, shadows of furniture and curtains landscaping the floor of my house in a greyscale—except for the block of warm light sharply spilling out of the kitchen entrance, pushing back and reversing the shadow of the coffee table. My stomach churns uncomfortably as I walk down the last couple of steps and then slowly make toward the kitchen, dimly noting that Ron isn't sleeping on the couch and that the sheets are ruffled—the pillow haphazardly forgotten on the floor.
I don't know what I'm seeing, really, when I enter the kitchen to the sight of Ron and Draco sitting at the table—each with a mug in hand, quietly and seriously conversing. It seems like a joke. Like a morning cartoon sketch, the ones that only have one panel and a funny commentary. My first thought is that Ron is playing some sort of prank on Draco, easy as he is in his new persona that seems to be unfazed by all things subtly or sarcasm. So I wait a few seconds to see if I can discern a trace of mock in Ron's face, a tilt of a lip, a flare of a nostril—anything. But there's nothing: the man seems to be dead-serious, deeply involved in whatever direction their discussion is taking.
They don't even notice me some good twenty seconds, half-naked in my trousers as I am.
When I clear my throat they both look up, not shocked or embarrassed or even a little surprised. They just smile. Identical, zany smiles. I shiver involuntarily.
"Morning," Ron says, lifting his mug minutely.
"Morning," Draco agrees.
"Hi," I say slowly, suspiciously, looking back and forth between the two. "Is everything . . ." I don't finish the sentence. I don't know how.
"Oh, yes," Draco answers anyway. "Ron and I just had a brilliant talk."
I watch as they exchange a mysterious, conspiring glance and barely manage to squeak out a surprised—"You did?"
"Yeah," Ron replies, nodding earnestly. "A really, really good talk."
I'm almost sure it's a joke now. So I start laughing, but stop abruptly a moment later—my smile falters, and suddenly it's a very serious matter.
"I'm sorry," I say feebly. "I don't think I quite follow."
"Well, it's—" Ron starts. "I just—I couldn't sleep. Because of, you know, the Hermione thing and all. So I went to get something to eat from the kitchen, and that's when . . ." he trails off, motion to Draco.
"I couldn't sleep as well," Draco supplies. "Because of the bed frame."
I blink at him. "The bed frame."
"Yes. I don’t believe in bed frames." He smiles. "But never mind that now. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to walk about. It helps. That's when I saw Ron sitting here, and one thing led to the other, so we got talking and . . ." he concludes with a laugh, as if he's said something very funny, and Ron joins him in evident agreement.
I stare at them for a long moment before I get it. Stepping to the table I snatch Ron's mug and sniff it, hoping to recognise the aroma of illegal substances of some kind. Ron observes me confusedly, and on realising what I'm doing he lets out an exasperated puff, grabbing back his mug.
"You see?" Draco then says in a quiet voice. "That’s what I mean. You see?"
Ron nods, shooting me a brief, pityingly disapproving glance.
I am floored.
In one movement I yank at his arm, jerking him to his feet with no intention of giving him the time to gain balance. Immediately, I drag out the kitchen, not bothering to give Draco an explanation. Ron stumbles as he struggles to keep up, managing short, "What—"s, but not much more. I pause shortly in the living room, but a glance over my shoulder shows me that we're still not far away enough from Draco's line of vision. I pull Ron's arm once more and force the both of us into the supply cupboard under the stairs.
I pull the little chain to make the dim light bulb go on and immediately hiss a whispered, "Are you taking the mickey?"
"What?" Ron replies, honestly confused.
"Ron?" I ask, not sure who I'm talking to anymore. "Hello? Ron Weasley?"
"You're being quite hostile, Harry," he tells me. "And don't think I can't sense your sarcasm. I can. I'm choosing not to acknowledge it, but yeah, just so you know."
I make a couple of small, spluttering sounds, completely at a loss as to what to reply. Eventually I end up grabbing his shoulders and shaking him violently. It didn't help with Draco, and I don't know why I think it would help this time. Ron just lets me, though, and when I'm done—staring into his eyes in earnest, trying very hard to find a trace of that good old insecure cynicism I know and love—he doesn't appear to be anything but slightly dizzy.
"Yeah," he says, blinking rapidly. "He said you might do that."
"What the hell, Ron?" I hiss at him, still trying to whisper. "What! The! Hell!"
He smiles lazily, and because my hands are still on his shoulders he mimics the gesture and puts his on mine in a show of friendship. "It's okay," he tells me. "You were right, Harry. Fixit is the real thing. He's . . ." He squeezes my shoulders. "He's the real thing."
I stumble backward in the confined space, bumping into some shelves and sending a couple of corn cans to an awkward fall to the ground. "Oh Jesus," I say in a small, strained voice. "Ron. Pall. I uhm, I never said he was the real thing. Ever."
"Yes you did. You said, Draco is a spiritual healer now."
"Yes," I say, pausing. "That was meant ironically."
"I know it was," he replies cheerfully. "But you turned it to be right after all."
"No, Ron. I did not turn out to be right. I did not turn out to be anything. I've actually been very, very consistent in my being for the past twelve hours, in fact, so—"
"Well that doesn't matter now, does it? Cuz he is for real. I know you don't believe me now, you're all 'oh ha ha Ron's gone all potty in the head, let's crack wise jokes and bottle up my anger', but you'll see. You talk to him and you'll see."
"I have talked to him." And then, as an afterthought, "I do not bottle up my anger!"
"Listen, mate, I have loads to tell you—really. But I can't right now, I need to go home, okay? What if I come by tomorrow, yes? We can—"
"What? Go home? I thought you—"
"—I know. That's just it. I was being a total dickhead. I see it now, and I need to go home and explain to Hermione that I didn't know I was being a dickhead and that I'm sorry."
"Woah, woah—what? I told you that. I told you that yesterday, more than once. I said, Ron, you're being a very very stupid—"
"It takes more than saying it, Harry," he tells me.
"What, then? Pulling your fucking earlobes? Does that help?"
He looks moderately angry for a flash, eyebrows knotting in an indignant frown before smoothing out and then he's calm again. "It's more than just that, Harry. It's a . . . a . . ."
"A, a, what?"
"I don't know," he bites back, irritated. "It's complicated, all right? When he does that, it's like—like this click, yeah? As if something clicks. And suddenly you're calm and you see things . . . things you couldn't understand before. And then he explains it. And it's just—it fixes it, mate. He fixes it."
I drop my head back, and it bangs against the wooden plank digging into my neck. "Fuck," I say. "So, what, you're going to fix it all now? Hermione, all the fights, all the miscommunications, you're—"
"—Yes," he cuts me off. "That and other stuff, too. Or at least I'm gonna try." 'Unlike you' goes unsaid.
"Great. So. What's the magic solution, Ron? What the magic word that's going to fix it all, then?"
He huffs out an annoyed breath, and I silently congratulate myself on getting to him to quickly.
"I can't talk to you like this," he says at length, and I'm thinking that maybe he counted to ten before speaking. "You're not prepared to listen and you're being hurtful."
I laugh. "Well that's Harry Potter for ya!" I say, shrugging out my arms dramatically.
"I'm gonna go home now."
"Go!" I tell him. "Quick, before my sarcasm makes you grow a pair."
He shakes his head at me and opens the cupboard door to leave. He's gone for a second, though, before tracing back his steps and thoughtfully adding—"You know, yesterday you were the one set on being a better person. Why does it bother you if other people wanna be better too?"
"Yeah, I want to do good," I say. "Not a be bloody crackpot."
He looks at me for a contemplative moment before nodding, as if he's figured me out and has come to terms with the fact that I suck. "All right," he says. "I'm sorry that's how you feel."
I mime exasperated acceptance, shrugging as if to say—hey, what ya gonna do about it, eh? But he just gives me a sad little smile and disappears, then. I stay in the cupboard, listening to him gathering his things and bid goodbye to Draco, and I do not come out until I'm sure he's gone.
When I finally venture into the kitchen again, I am angry. I try not to look at Draco, casually sitting at the table with knee up—an expectant expression on his face. So I open the fridge with unnecessary force and begin to rummage. I'm not hungry, but it's important that I make a lot of noise right now.
"So," Draco starts behind me. "I take it you're not happy with—"
I turn around at once, cruelly barking out a laugh. "You think?"
"All I did was—"
"No, don't tell me. I don't want to hear. It'll only piss me off more." I toss the items I have in my hand on the table and sit down opposite him with a loud sigh. I intend to eat, but find that somehow I've managed to grab cheese and a carton of milk. Sneering, I set to picking little bits off the block of cheese, eating them like that.
"Ron told me," he gently starts after a while, "about the unfortunate few days you've been having."
I pause in my mousy eating. "He what?"
"You broke up with your long-term girlfriend, Harry."
"She broke up with--! Why does everyone keep forgetting--!" I splutter before realising, "Hold on, he told you that? About Ginny? What the shit did you do to him, you tossing—"
"—Calm down, Harry. All I did—"
"—No, stop, I don't want to know." I drop the cheese and use my free hands to support my face before it hit the surface of the table. "Ugghhhh," I miserably moan into my palms.
Draco, not taking a hint, waits for a small intermission and then continues, "He also happened to mention something about a list?"
"He said you made a list that would help you be a better person."
"Of course he did."
"Can I see it?"
"You want to see my list?" I look up at him, letting my arms slide to the table.
"I would think, yes. As your spiritual coach it would help me get a better grasp on what you're aiming for. I mean, that's what I'm here for, right? To help you?"
I observe him for a long moment, trying to imagine how this could go wrong. I can think of about a million ways. The idea is only more of an incentive, and I dig into my trouser pocket (been wearing the same pair for days now) to slide the crumpled paper across the table.
Draco picks it up with careful fingers, inspecting it thoughtfully. I watch with brimming amusement as his eyebrows inch their way up his forehead. I expect him to comment on the fact that he's homeless, and that's the second on my list, and that How Dare I use him like that and that he thought that he was here to help and bla bla, ending with him storming out and never coming back—ridding me of all evidence of my momentary madness.
"Right," he says at length. "I wonder, Harry—why is helping your friends in the last place?"
"What?" I say, taken aback.
"Well, here—" He flips the paper to show me, "—your friends are number five. After orphans. And the morally deprived. And the homeless. And—"
"Yeah, I get it." I snatch back my list. I try to make a noise that would make him feel stupid for asking, and then I say, "Should be pretty obvious, shouldn't it?"
"Well, yeah! They don't really need me as much as, I don't know, the hungry. I mean, they've got food and a home and all, haven't they? They're fine." I shrug. "Couldn't do much myself to make their lives better."
"I just told you I co—" I stop. "Wait, are you trying to mess with my mind or something?"
He smiles grandly at me, and there's something deeply unsettling about it. "Of course not," he says, and I don't believe a word of it.
I pause, glancing sideways in a thoughtful moment and—"Yeah. I'm going to go to work now."
I get up and he offers me an easy, "Have a good one."
"Right. Don't break anything." I turn to leave before remembering, "And don't talk to any more of my friends, all right? And no more conversing with Ron. I need to . . . reverse whatever you did before . . ." my mind trails off as I imagine Hermione's reaction, freaking out and trying to find out whether Ron's been in an accident involving head-trauma when he comes home and asks her about her feelings.
I start toward the hallway, and it takes me about ten seconds as I fumble for a place to put my keys to realise I'm not wearing either a shirt or shoes. Grumbling, I stalk up the stairs and then back down in an old sweater and my muddy running shoes.
"I'm going!" is the last thing I shout before closing the door behind me. Draco's reply, whatever it is, is lost by the time I'm marching down the pathway—freezing cold, but not enough to go back and get my coat.