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The Butterfly Effect

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Bloody hell, who runs this place?! Clearly someone deaf who thinks Finnish sauna is a nice, cosy place to start a family in! I was soaked like a jellyfish before I even managed to push through a tightly packed mêlée of bodies on my way to the bar. I god-honestly try shouting my order to the bar-tender, but Thor's top quality thunder wouldn't stand a chance getting above that volume of rack – or was it rock? I never know! - music. So after a few failed attempts, when my voice is already too bloody raw from useless howling and thirst, I just give it up for a bad job and begrudgingly reduce my communication skills to something my brother George would probably refer to as “waggling his gorilla arms about with a very real danger of decapitating the innocent bystanders”. Poor Georgie, he hasn’t been the same since the war, but it finally gets me my double dose of Ogden's finest so the not-so-innocent bystanders are kindly advised to get fucked, thank you very much.

Yeah... Ogden’s finest... that’s right – double dose to kick off the evening. Hell, yeah! If I am going to get sloshed, I'm going to do it in style. What else is a newly single young wizard supposed to do on a Saturday night? Out of the many post-war clubs, conveniently located on the border between the Muggle world and the Knockturn Alley to boost the mixed clientele, this is the only half-decent place, where one isn't likely to get robbed, drugged or – in my case – sold to the press with big ink-dripping titles: RON WEASLEY, HARRY POTTER’S RIGHT-WING MAN, FOUND DROWNING HIS BROKEN HEART IN A BOTTLE!!!

So in case that didn’t give you a clue, Hermione dumped me. As in, shouted at me: “Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Ronald, get your head out of your arse! You don’t even know what you want for breakfast these days, how can we make this work!?”

Which in a way was as much hurtful as it was – I’m ashamed to say it – a relief. Bloody woman is stressful. I mean, don’t get me wrong, my friend Hermione is the best cookie out there, she comes with a message and all, but my ex-girlfriend Hermione was to die of. And in case you were wondering, I meant that. Not to die for, to die of. The damn woman nearly offed me. It was always “Ron, do this...” “Ron, why don’t you...” “Ron, how come others and we don’t...”

I’m telling you, in the end I got bloody exhausted just at the sight of her! So when she called it quits about a week ago, I wrought a promise of “forever friends no matter what” out of her, and then got busy sulking around, playing the broken hearted left-behind as persuasively as I could – which, in the end, only fooled such naive little suckers as Harry, bless the man – and sucking in as much pity in the form of kidney pies my mom could muster. But mostly I got my good night’s rest back together with the rest of my life to figure out what to do with.

So, here I am. Experimenting my heart out. Or, at the moment, my T-shirt off, cause that one was the first to go in the hell’s deepest furnace this club is – small wonder it is called “M&Ws Topless”, Muggles and Wizards... erm, I mean, Witches Topless, yeah, this is what I'm here for, I could do with some topless Ws! And in case you were wondering, I‘m not the only one taking the name of the club too literally. In fact, I might be the only one that still has any kind of rags on my torso and I'm beginning to wonder why is everybody looking at me funny...

Though now that I’ve taken it off, they’re done looking and they’ve switched to the shameful, obnoxious staring. So I’ve got a tattoo... I can’t be the only one! It is rather big... and come to think... a dead giveaway... not everyone’s got the Ukrainian Ironbelly they once used as a means of escape tattooed across their chest. A very much moving Ukrainian Ironbelly.... Oh, no, this isn’t going to be one of those: “Are you...? Would you sign my tit...?” is it?! Or is it?!

Oh, for holy fuck's sake, this looks as if I am about to be cornered by a bunch of starstruck crazies before I can even attempt to find my true self, lurking somewhere in the deep, dark pits of me – and honestly, I am really not much up to that this evening. There were days when I would have sunbathed happily in anyone’s admiration, but I’m not 11 anymore, thank you very much. Time for a disappearing act worthy of good ol' Dumbledore, then... or maybe I’ll just go for a standard dive-into-the crowd, considering it’s not recommended to wave one's wand around in the club populated with Muggles and wizards alike.

There, all better. Boy, is it packed here, or is it packed here?! This is supposed to be a dance floor, but at this moment it just looks like a giant hell pit, stuffed full with semi-naked bodies, all moving in something that could barely pass as a rhythm. And you know what? That is alright with me. Like this, stuck in the crowd, under the god-awful blaring music, I can’t hear myself think and doubt and guess and wonder, I just move the way the mob dictates and it is bloody liberating! And now that I've gotten used to it, the music actually isn’t half bad! I guess Harry was right for once, thinking I might like the rack music, bloody great that one! Still can’t make out more than a single word here and there, though... but it’s not like I came here to write down the lyrics, is it? I hear an occasional “fuck” and that’s good enough for me, that’s familiar territory.

I should be alright, I gather, unless this roller coaster of jumping bodies takes me in front of one of those boxes from hell – talkers, is it? No, that's not it... speakers? Yeah, that could be it. Though – who in their right mind called thosespeakers?! They should have been called Molly's howlers or something! Make that Molly's-wounded-dragon-howlers, bloody hell, would you look at that, the air literally vibrates in front of them! That guy over there's got it right, though, he's gotten out of this pit of mashed bodies and he’s just resting on top of the M-howlers! That’s a bloody good idea if I ever saw one! Only half the noise behind them and – frankly, all this naked skin just might be a little too much of a human contact for my under-developed social skills to handle. Let me just... join that guy up there for a moment... rest the social skills... there you go... all better now.

The music is still ear-splitting, even up here, but at least the poor, boiling Ukrainian Ironbelly is getting a well-deserved break from all those sweaty bodies surrounding it; the beast already smacked me angrily with her spiked tail a couple of times and it bloody hurts! I knew I should have just gotten myself a Muggle tattoo, but no, fucking Charlie always thinks he knows better – “You'll see, Ron, nothing like one of those across your chest, trust me, it's a bird-magnet, it'll look smashing...” Trust Charlie, ha! That alone could have told me there was something fishy going on, my brother is slicker than a soaped Grindylow!

Now, would you look at that guy over there... well, right here, actually, since I’m sitting right beside him... bloody exhausted, poor sod. Lying there like there's no tomorrow, hair across half of his face, his chest moving rhythmically as if in snoring, eyes closed, as if he was... Wait a minute, rewind that... snoring? Who'd be snoring under a noise like that... is he actually sleeping?!

In.A.Noise.Like.That?! Maybe that’s not snoring... Maybe that’s a tiny, helpless “Get me out of here, I can't stand the noise!” under all that blue... green... no, blond hair, fucking disco lights...

Well, nothing for it now, I better check if he's alright... Hermione will have my balls in a grilled sandwich if she finds out a guy had passed out next to me from the noise attack and I just sat there like a pickle in a jar, doing nothing. And trust me, she's got a way of finding these things out, my stupid tongue just gets a life of its own when she's around – the idiot starts blabbing all kinds of impossible, big, dark secrets I don't even know I have. So, yeah... I kind of have to... not really my style, saving the innocent noise assault victims, Harry's the usual hero-on-duty, but since he's out of reach...

“Hey, mate, are you alright? You can't possibly be sleeping in this murderous blast, can you?”

Blimey, this one is out cold. He doesn’t look too well either – his complexion looks greyer than Dumbledore’s hair, bless the old man’s soul... or maybe it’s just those bloody lights, making us all look like a mad bunch of naked Dementors...

“Hey, chap, you still breathing...? You look awfully pale, you know... want me to call someone?”

Bloody hell, he doesn’t even move, snoring away happily as if he’s in a nice, cosy bed somewhere and not on top of an M-howler, vibrating with volume. That can’t be alright... Perhaps he’s been drugged and left to choke on his own tongue or something? Maybe if I move his hair a bit, let the light hit him in the face, that should wake him up.

Wow, this is some seriously soft hair... Would you look at that! It just slides out of my hands like water, all silken and lustrous... I wonder how it smells... Why the hell do I even...? Oh, who the fuck cares, I’m here to find myself, as Hermione instructed, and if I want to smell some unconscious bloke's hair before I sort him out, that’s just what I’ll do! It’ll only be for a second... oh, mother of god, this is delicious... after all that sweaty skin and decidedly male smells, this one smells... oh... Merlin, that’s fresh...If Hermione’s hair had smelled like this, I would have put up with all that feisty attitude for a while longer... And, look, I can see myself in his eyes; they’re nearly silver... and open... very much open... and I’m.... and this is....shit... I’m in so much shit. Piles upon piles of hippogriff shit.

“Weasley, you idiot!”

I know that obnoxious drawl, I so know that drawl... How does he even manage to drawl when he has to shout to be heard?!

“What are you up to, smelling me like an over-zealous puppy?! And what are you doing in a gay club in the first place?!”

Well... of all things knitted together to make a fuck up... trust it to Malfoy to utter such an impossible... untrue... extreme exaggeration! True, the clientele might be a bit on the... mostly... exclusively male side – though there are some extremely professional looking drag queens roaming about! I wouldn’t just go to a gay club, would I now?! I’m a Weasley, for fuck’s sake, we enjoy tits and arse!

Well, kind of tiny tits, actually... the type that fit inside the palms of my hands, those are the best... I’ve always liked that about Hermione, she had tiny, perky tits, nothing like Lavender’s, for fuck’s sake, I think I might have been mentally scarred for life, gasping for air between those two balloons! I still have nightmares, you know!

And I like a nice arse just like the next over manly man! Not one of those soft, squishy butts, that’s just... yuck, but a nice firm arse like Harry’s... ew... erm....nope... let’s try again... oh, bloody hell, Ginny is the only other person that comes to mind, but I might need a lifetime supply of soap to scrub that image off my brain... I just like my arses firm, alright?! Like Quidditch player firm, professionally firm arse, that's the one for me! So – I like the tits and I like me some arse, ergo this cannot be a gay club. Cannot. No... It was a... gentlemen’s club... gentlemen only... and I’m one, right?

Even Malfoy here may pass for one, even though he looks as if he’s been a few rounds with Dementors and can’t even sit straight... Bloody hell, what happened to the guy?! There are circles the size of Hagrid’s hands around his eyes and even in the fake, blue light he looks green, which would make him yellow... And he seems too exhausted to even attempt to get up; he just lies there staring at me most annoyingly. Still looking like a bloody fashion god. Merlin's pants, I hate this guy.

“Well?!” he wants to know.

“Well what?” I mumble trying not to be heard... but of course the bloody guy can lip-read, so he just gives me one of his dismissive “Really?” looks with a raised eyebrow and a cold smirk that looks etched into that pretty... er... wrong word... pointy face. Blimey, my head is all over the place tonight, I very nearly called Malfoy pretty! That’s it, call St. Mungo's, I’m checking myself in!

“It's very noisy here!!!” I shout back to buy some time and see if I can wiggle myself out of this one. “I can't hear a word you're saying... so, yeah... I'll be leaving this... respectable gentlemen's club now and... I... erm... have a nice life and all!”

I get ready to jump off the M-howler and start making arrangements to live like a celibate shaman in Timbuktu, when his arm snaps at me with surprising speed and his hand catches mine and... bloody hell, this is the most claw-like contraption my hand has ever been in! His skin is about 2 degrees above tomb temperature, in spite of him wearing long sleeves in this inferno, and the bones of his hand are protruding from it like needles, making it look tiny and fragile like that of a child. I don't even have to look at his emaciated, drawn face to see that there is something horribly wrong with him. His vulture-like talons grab up my arm to get enough grip to lift himself up, but he doesn’t seem to be able to do it, so I, on a stupid impulse, help him up in a sitting position and he sways like grass in the storm and looks at me from up close, as if he wants to tell me something.

Mother of God, it’s just scary how hollow his eyes are, glowing so silver from those dark circles around them, but before he can say what he has to say, the music stops abruptly as if someone pulled the plug, and an angry voice shouts at us:

“Hey you two! What are you playing at?! Get off those immediately or you'll be liable for damages!”

The eyes of everyone at the club are instantly on us, but honestly, I don’t even care, because those big, grey eyes of Malfoy's suddenly become as big as planets and... well, I could live to be as old as Nicholas Flamel, but I would never be able to forget that expression on his face... pure horror and... despair and... fuck me if I've ever seen more pain on anyone's face; it is positively twisted in some kind of numb, ghastly torture – and then it is all over and Draco Malfoy slips unconscious from my arms and hits the floor with what is left of his dead weight.

Now, don't get me wrong, dropping Malfoy from any kind of considerable height was my ultimate wet dream... when I was about 16; only now, that it's actually happening, it is slightly less cool than I imagined it back then. Like, enormously slightly less cool. Light years from cool, in fact anything but cool. My public image is definitely roast now – bloody hell, just imagine the feast the papers are going to have: an ex-war hero, a fallen angel of sorts, with bloodshot eyes and breath smelling of whiskey, turns up in a gay bar to drown his broken heart after a failed relationship with a woman that was always too good for him, comes across an old adversary and decides to remember his old grudges and take out his frustrations on him... Forget St. Mungo's, make me a one person luxury suite booking in Azkaban!

But truthfully – the Rita Skeeter related anxieties are the last thing on my mind at the moment. I'm scared. That last look on his face... it was just bloody haunting! I’m going to have nightmares! So yeah... I'm... worried. Over Draco Malfoy of all people! You know what?! Perhaps it’s time to go and check out St. Mungo’s after all. With Draco Malfoy in my lap.

~

“What's wrong with him, can't you tell?! You're supposed to be a goddamn hospital, aren't you, and you can't even make Draco-bloody-Malfoy shut up! He's been screaming like a banshee for the last half an hour; the man's clearly in agony and you're telling me to wait?! Like – seriously?!”

I am outraged. Tired. Shirtless. My bloody ears hurt. And my guts seem twisted into something alike the basilisk wrapped 12 times around itself from the horrible sound. Ever since I brought him in half an hour ago and they revived him, Draco Malfoy hasn't stopped screaming. It is unnerving to say the least. And horrible, right fucking your-worst-nightmare-starring-Voldy horrible. I knew this was a mistake. I knew it! But I couldn't just leave him there, unconscious and all... horrified and... godknowswhat of those other things he was – not like this, when he was nothing but a ghost of his former self. I recognised the Malfoy from before when he gave me that dismissive, leisurely smirk, lying on top of the M-howlers. I have no idea who this new guy was, that appeared after the music had stopped. He was ghastly!

And a blind and – by now – deaf man could see that he needs help. Badly. Only those silly useless fuckers at St. Mungo's are either too sadistic or too incompetent to give it to him. Time for a change of strategy then. His howling, my howling – none of it helps, and right now I could seriously use a few hints to see where to head next.

“Can you at least tell me what they think is wrong with him?” I ask the healer-in-training, trying to sound as tired and as anxious as I can muster. “They must at least have an idea by now –they've been at him for half an hour!”

“It's really hard to say,” the woman sighs. “He screams incessantly and won't let anyone near... and he won't stop screaming to be allowed to sleep. It's very hard to run diagnostics with him struggling the way he does and that's just the point – he cannot be allowed to sleep, not if we want to determine what's wrong with him, as it is clearly something that's taking a great toll on him...”

“But what is it?!” I cut through her words impatiently because I could honestly do without her talent for pointing out the obvious. “Is it something he caught, is it some potion he took, I mean, he was always a tad mental and kind of walking at the edge of illegal, but this...”

“We think it's a curse,” she finally declares and then adds on the afterthought: “But honestly, why do you care? I thought you two were enemies...”

But I no longer care for her assumptions, as accurate as they might seem, I got my hint and I know what to do next. A curse. I can deal with that. We have a top-notch curse-breaker in the family, who could teach these amateurish fuckers a thing or two.

~

“Ron, you're mental...”

That must be the hundredth time my brother Bill has told me that since I dragged him out of his bed in the middle of the night against the angry French chattering of his part-Veela wife – who, by the way, looks gorgeous in her nearly transparent negligée – see, not gay, so not gay, I happen to think Fleur is super hot!... – just don't tell Bill I said that, yeah? I like my head where it is, thank you very much, it would look so much worse at my feet.

There is no use denying the obvious, though; I am mental to have dragged my perfectly decent brother, a family man, from his cosy bed a hundred miles away in the middle of the night to apparate with me to a hospital, holding a howling, delirious Draco Malfoy.

“Errr... I know,” I tell him, because there really isn’t much more to say. “Will you do it anyway, then? Have a look at him? Give your professional opinion? Cause they're just a bunch of monkeys in there, I'm telling you, they can't tell a peach from an arse...”

“The St. Mungo's doctors are perfectly capable of curing most of the common diseases and a solid selection of the very rare ones, brother dearest, but as is the case with most public institutions, they lack funding and they tend to... fall behind in certain, more obscure sectors of healthcare, which they can't afford to invest in. In short – ” Bill looks at me sideways and even in the darkness I can feel him smile, “ - they can't afford me. But you, apparently, can,” he adds smoothly and when he has gotten a full dose of the panicked face I dutifully display, he passes on his sentence: “You're degnoming my garden for the rest of the year, Ronnekins. No excuses, no rain checks – I call, you jump. Are we clear?”

“Ahemp...” I agree, though begrudgingly... Seriously, what else can I do?! I did drag my top quality brother out of his bed at night and stocking the shelves at Weasley Wizarding Wheezes doesn’t exactly come with executive compensations. But then he ruffles my hair and pulls me close, murmuring something like “I don't see nearly enough of you, Ronnie-boy” – and somehow I know that my punishment won’t be quite as bad. And I get to stare at Fleur. Like, covertly.

~

We can hear him from the bottom floor. Bloody hell, it must be at least another half an hour since I left and he is still at it, full force, though his voice now has this raw edge that comes with near numbness. I don’t even have to introduce my brother. You'd think Merlin himself was visiting. The healers-in-training are practically wetting themselves, even the Senior healers seem to be drooling and – bloody hell, who knew my brother was such a rack star in the world of the cursed and demented? The doors that were impenetrable to me jump open for him without him needing to say a word, but as they stand ajar, the screaming becomes nearly unbearable and right before he enters, Bill looks at me solemnly and says:

“Ron, are you sure you want to do this? You could totally wait outside, you know. I can't see how it would make a difference.”

“No.”

I swallow and try to look my bravest. “I want to. I feel like I somehow... did this. I mean, I know I didn't, bloody hell, I was just trying to help, but I was there and he's here now and... I want to.”

Not exactly an explanation that would ever earn me Order of Rowena Ravenclaw for eloquence, but it seems to suffice for my brother, as he simply nods curtly and walks in:

“Go on then, try not to fall apart on me.”

And in spite of his warning, I very nearly do. I haven't even gotten a good look at Draco Malfoy since I deposited him in the hands of the Healers until now. I was too out of it at the time, and they locked him up immediately, but under the sharp lights of the St. Mungo's emergency unit, he looks as if he fell off the undertaker's shovel. Honestly, Death warmed up probably looks a tad healthier; his complexion is sallow, some unhealthy tone between grey and yellow, his skin seems too big for him – he was always a skinny little twat, but he must have lost enormous amounts of weight, he looks bloody transparent! – and his eyes still have that mad, silver glare from the darkest pits of hell about them that make every hair on my head stand up. He is still wearing the same clothes he had on when I brought him in, but they are now stained with liquids unknown and there are signs of tear streaks running down his hollow cheeks. He looks... damned.

At first he doesn’t even seem to notice that there are two extra people in the room, because he’s too busy trashing about, spitting insults at people and just yelling at the top of his lungs:

“Make it stop! Make it stop!!! I just want to sleep, do you hear me?! How daft are you!? Fucking mob of imbeciles… it's hardly Arithmancy level 9, you idiots – I.Want.To.Sleep!!!

Well, see – this is just Malfoy at his finest. Doesn’t make a shred of sense, that one, never did. If he wants to sleep so badly, why on Earth is he howling like a wounded baboon!? It’s much more likely he'd quietly go to sleep if he shut up - and that, my darlings, is no Arithmancy level 9!

Then he finally spots us and though he barely glances at Bill, the sight of me makes his eyes go as big as chocolate frogs and in a fresh surge of spite, he somehow manages to tear himself away from his two caretakers:

You!!! Weasley, you're dead, you bastard!! Why the fuck did you have to wake me up, you retard?! You're going down, you worthless waste of space, you're…”

And you see, this is where having a half-werewolf brother like Bill comes in handy. As the crazy arsed Malfoy launches himself at me, literally foaming at the mouth like a rabid fox, my badass brother calmly steps in front of me and intercepts the lunatic before those claw-like hands could do some serious damage. Even a berserk Malfoy is no match for my brother’s werewolf reflexes – Bill simply grabs him by the shoulders, pulls him away from me with his superior strength and holds him at an arm’s distance, focusing on the pale, frantic face.

“Bloody hell...” I hear Bill mumble, sounding shocked, and before you know it, his hands are no longer on Malfoy’s shoulders but on his temples and he is murmuring something I cannot make heads or tails of, but it sounds Arabic and suddenly the silence hits us all like a giant ice wall, burying everything underneath. Bill slowly, warily releases Malfoy and without another moment of delay, the bony git collapses onto my brother’s chest, his willowy arms wrapped tightly around his torso, sobbing violently and repeating a single sentence: “Thank you, thank you, thank you...”

Well, I never... That sight alone, watching Draco Malfoy thank someone named Weasley, was worth the trip to the Shell Cottage in the middle of the night. Blimey. Someone give me a glass of water. And I might need a chair.

“It’s only temporary, yeah?” I hear my brother speak uncommonly softly, considering he had a human skeleton, leaving trails of tears and other liquid waste, resting on his chest. “I can’t make it go away, whatever it is, but this is an ancient Egyptian freezing spell and it can temporarily neutralize every known curse in existence, so one could gather information and try to get around it. I reckon we’ve got about half an hour, maybe an hour, and we need to use this time wisely. I need you to pull yourself together and give me a hand here, alright? Malfoy? Draco?”

I just gape at my brother. He just called the snake from the deepest pits of Slytherin by his given name and blimey... it works like a charm! I guess becoming a dad did things to Bill, because I’ve never felt his authority and that special feeling of fatherly “it’s going to be alright” comfort radiate from him so intensely and truth be told, Draco Lucius Malfoy, the snobbiest, rudest person I’ve ever known, is just putty in his hands.

“Alright,” the blond git whispers quietly and tries to dry his nearly-liquefied face somewhere other than my brother’s robes, until Bill just sorts it out for him with a discrete, perfectly aimed wandless spell. Mom would be delighted enough to squeal.

“Now, I need you to tell me exactly what this is, everything you know about it, how it feels for you, why is it making you... like this... wasted away. This is no time for secrets and shame, Draco. If you want help, you’re going to have to be honest and just... say it. I already know it’s pretty fucking devastating, so don’t worry about disturbing my frail constitution; I can deal with it, I assure you. Now, can you do that for me?”

And when the blond menace nods reluctantly, my brother asks matter-of-factly:

“Do you want Ron out of the room?”

Hey...! Thanks for nothing, brother dear! And you, serpent, you had better remember I was the one who brought you here and got you the top care in the country! But I don't say anything, of course not, I just glare murderously at Bill, who is, of course, perfectly unaffected, having survived years of Molly-inquisition unscathed, and after a while Malfoy just shrugs tiredly and shakes his head:

“Let him be... I suppose you’d just tell him later anyway. But get those two vegetables out of there!” he throws a hateful look at the two healers-in-training, still sweaty to the bone and panting from trying to keep him under control without hurting him. “Bloody useless, both of them!”

And there he is, returned to us safely: the good old Draco Malfoy in all his snarky glory. You gotta love the man. Advertising death in person and still spitting venom.

“Don't be a drama queen, Malfoy,” my brother warns him. “We don't have time for that.”

“Quite,” Malfoy murmurs, and as the door finally clicks behind the two fuming caretakers he takes a big breath, closes his scary eyes as if he wants to focus and exhales slowly.

“I... hear voices,” he starts with difficulty and if I didn't know better I would have thought his voice had the slightest tremor underneath. Well... go on, I want to tell him, feeling more incredulous and pissed off with every passing moment of his silence. That can't have been it, surely! Malfoy couldn't have been shouting his lungs out for over an hour only because he was hearing some fucking voices, could he?! I mean, seriously, who doesn't hear voices every once in a while?! I've got a most annoying high-pitched Hermione-voiced person living inside my head, very inconveniently shouting at me every time I fuck up! At this point I am feverishly hoping there is more to his condition, because I am just beginning to feel royally stupid for having fallen for this spoilt brat's shit-trick yet again!

“Go on,” Bill says calmly. “Time is of the essence here, don't forget that!”

“They... never stop. Ever. They're loud... too damn loud, shouting and screaming and... I can't sleep. At all. I can’t sleep at all, I haven’t slept in...”

At this point Malfoy turns deathly pale and his fingers are shaking something awful. He looks unnerved and – strangely – ashamed and just... at the end of his rope.

“Whose voices... do you know?” Bill asks, unrelenting, but Malfoy just nods and doesn't seem to be able to muster the strength to answer.

“From the war,” he finally whispers and as a cold hand takes a grip around my heart and squeezes, things finally begin to make sense and all the fun seems to have run out of this world.

“From my time... at the Manor... during that last holiday,” he continues with difficulty. “I hear them... the people there...”

Well, that sort of explains it – I would have to change my pants three times a day if I had the lovely Bella and her circus of dreadful freaks scream at me throughout the day. Every day. All day. With no end.

But I forget that Bill doesn't know. I never got around telling him what a hellhole Malfoy's home had become during those last dark days; we never talk about the war. It's nearly been a year, and it's still all too fresh for us all and mum sometimes still puts an extra plate in front of Fred's empty seat at the table when she's distracted, and one of us, whoever is the closest, quietly removes it, before she can remember. So Bill doesn't know; he wasn't there, like I was, with Harry and Hermione, so he just frowns and shoots a questioning glance at Malfoy. The werewolf in him senses the all the wrong of it, so when he speaks, it is quiet, but there's a tiny edge in his voice that wasn't there before.

“Spit it out,” he says. “All of it. Whose voices? What are they saying?”

And at this point Malfoy finally loses it.

“They're not saying anything!” he shouts. “They're screaming, just bloody screaming in agony, pleading with me, begging for mercy, begging for death, but I've got nothing to give anymore, Weasley! No mercy, no absolution, not even a quick end to their torment!”

Under his scars my brother has turned ashen white.

“You mean they're voices of...” he starts insecurely, but Malfoy is now in full swing and won't even let him finish.

“Yes, the voices of those I was forced to torture, Weasley!” he shouts as if my brother has done this, as if he had been the one to set this terrible curse upon him.

The silence that follows feels like a morbid blanket; soggy, a ton heavy and suffocating. All the noise in the room is Draco Malfoy’s heaving chest.

“You have no idea what it was like...” he finally speaks bitterly. “No idea... You think you’ve seen it all. Ask your brother here, he’s seen a glimpse of it. This was once my home... and they turned it into a slaughter house, a place of annihilation so mindless, so absolute, so infinitely cruel... there’s no words for it. It would turn your stomach, if I told you what they did to people there. And I was a part of it. You can see me as blind fool or a victim of my father’s delusional ambition, but the fact remains that I was stuck in that hellhole with no exit and it was do or die. So I... survived.”

He glances at me, quickly, almost as if he is ashamed of making it out alive, and continues hastily:

“Oh, don't you doubt it, I tried fighting it at first. For the first week or so I vomited every time they forced me to witness interrogation of prisoners; I just didn’t have the stomach for it - but then one day there was nothing left to throw up and all my tears had dried up. So they figured I was finally ready to take a more active part in it.”

His fingers pick at the sleeve of the once elegant shirt he’s wearing, which seems about three sizes too big, with the cuffs already reduced to shreds by his nervous, spidery fingers. When he speaks again, his voice is strangely numb, as if he’s holding back some horrid emotion that’s choking him from the inside:

“The first time they told me to pull out my wand and show my allegiance to the Dark Lord, I couldn’t do it. I thought I’d rather die than do it, but they were smarter than this. If the Dark Lord wanted you to do things, you did them; he was much too cruel to kill you over a stupidity like defiance. Death was for the lucky. So he didn’t take it out on me, he took it out on my mother. He had her sister do it, to show me how it was done, how the allegiance was properly demonstrated. After that first time Aunt Bella used Crucio on my mother... I learned. I was barely more than a child... but I learned. And now I carry it with me every day...”

“How many?” Bill asks and there is something in his voice that sends shivers down my spine. Ever since he was bitten by a werewolf, my brother has been fiercer by a tenfold, but this, here, is not fire, it is deathly chill. “How many voices do you hear?”

“I don’t know,” Malfoy replies quietly. “At least a dozen,” he then adds tiredly, as if he wouldn’t want to appear uncooperative. And then as another thought appears somewhere in his exhausted brain, he looks at my brother, suddenly wide-eyed and says in a voice that no longer hides the tremor: “You’re not going to help me now, are you?! You’re going to go and you’re not going to help, now that you know! You’re going to abandon me with all this in my head and...”

“Shut up,” Bill says roughly, because the panic in Malfoy’s voice is turning acute and the brutality of Bill's voice serves very well as a mental slap in the face. Malfoy shuts up, but by the shivering arms he wraps around his body as if he’s bitterly cold, I can tell he’s not convinced. But Bill looks him straight into the feverish, silver eyes and speaks slowly, as if he is trying to explain things to a sick child:

“I will do everything in my power to help you. Everything. No one should carry this blasted war inside them anymore, and yet many still do. Whatever you did back then, it’s all smoke in the air, water under the bridge. You were too young to resist and none of your suffering can bring those people back from the dead. I would have done god-knows-what if they tortured my mother, or, Merlin help me, my wife or child in front of my eyes; I would have done anything they wanted me to do. So don’t you ever think I wouldn’t help. I’ll help if it’s in my power to help, but we haven’t got much time.”
“I need to hear it all. This is a curse, a very powerful one at that; I could feel its malicious resonance all the way back to the hallway. So if it’s a curse, someone cast it. Who was it, Draco? Do you know? Because this is essential. Some curses can only be overturned by those who cast them and this one seems vicious enough to be of that sort.”

I didn’t think it was possible for Draco Malfoy to turn even more ashen pale as he already is, but he proves me wrong. All the colour seems to have run out of him.

“Of course I know who cast it,” he says in a voice that’s barely above the whisper. “And if what you say is true, I’m beyond help. It was my Aunt Bellatrix. She always despised us; me and my father. She called us weak and unworthy and I think she only spared my life because of my mother. But during the final battle for Hogwarts, she caught me trying to sneak out of the Great Hall – I'd had it with all the screams, with the blood and gore everywhere and Merlin knows I've seen dead bodies enough to last me a lifetime. I could live to be a thousand years old and I'd never forget what she's done. She knew I was practically defenceless, with a wand that didn't serve me well, and she gloated at my helplessness.

’Going anywhere, nephew dearest?’ she cackled in that mad voice she had and Merlin, was it full of malice – that alone should have given me the clue to run for my life. ‘Surely you wouldn't abandon your own, your Master, to whom you've sworn your allegiance, you fickle little weakling!? Just like your father, a pair of traitors, both of you! Here, nephew dearest, a present from your loving Aunt Bella, just a little something to remember that you're one of us... for good!’

Malfoy does the shrieking voice of mad Bellatrix enough credit to send shivers down my spine and when I look at his sallow complexion, too big eyes, fancy clothes, sizes too large, I don’t quite recognise the feelings flooding me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say I felt... sorry for him, but... erm, yeah... this is Malfoy... I’m not supposed to? Whatever it is, it sets something... off inside of me and the longer I keep staring at him, I just couldn’t see the Malfoy from before the war in this worn out creature anymore; I just can’t seem to pull together the hatred and resentment I used to feel for him. It isn’t there anymore. And what is there instead, I cannot identify. I’m not Hermione, you see.

“Those were her exact words,” he continues tiredly. “I'll never forget... how could I? I guess I just never expected her to actually hex me... She's certainly never done it before, but then, my mother had always been present before and I think if there was one person my Aunt still cared for, it was her. But I soon saw how wrong I was.”

“I felt it hit me, but at the moment I didn't know what it was – there seemed to be no immediate effect. I could tell she hadn't missed; I felt nauseous in an instant and just... off, but I couldn't afford to stay around to figure out what she had done. I ran for my life and the last thing I remember, glancing over my shoulder, was her grinning madly at your mother. And the rest is history. I didn't stay to watch the duel; I was certain your mother would be nothing but the next name on a never-ending list of her kills, so I ran. I didn't know where to go – my mother and father were still there and I knew they'd be frantic if they wouldn't be able to find me. So I retorted to my bedroom in the Slytherin dorm. I figured no one would come looking for me there and I just hid under my bed until my mother came for me – apparently she had put a tracking charm on me, before I disappeared on her.”

“We left quietly in that chaos of destruction and mourning and we ended up going to one of my parents' properties. I remember falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was exhausted. And that was the last night I slept properly,” Malfoy says quietly and glances at my brother, his eyes as miserable as I was ever going to see them. I try to do the calculation, but for some reason my brain doesn't work and I find myself swallowing thickly. A year, nearly a year. Malfoy hadn't slept properly in nearly a year and when he’d finally dozed away, I woke him up. Er... I only have to look at his pasty, emaciated face to feel the depth of my idiocy.

But luckily Malfoy pays no attention to me. He stares into my brother's solemn, scarred face, as if Bill is a priest of some sort and him the repenting sinner, eager to confess all of his wrongdoings to absolve himself.

“When I woke up the following morning, they were already there,” he continues with deadly exhaustion in his voice, yet stubbornly, as if he somehow realizes that this is it, this is the end of his journey and he has but this one chance to save himself. “The voices. So faint at first, they seemed only as an odd ringing in my ears, but the pitch was so uncomfortable it drove me absolutely spare. And from that day on, it's only been growing worse, progressively. They grow louder every day and... more graphic. What I've done... everything, it's all there, in all its gruesome detail. Every day. All the time. Again and again and again. Waiting for me. Begging me to stop. Screaming at me to kill them.”

His fingers are now actively shredding the edges of the cuffs on his shirt; his eyes get that fleeting haunted expression from before and it is not hard to believe that whatever is going on in his head, it’s slowly driving him mad. Yet the words still pour out of him as if this is his one and only chance to cleanse himself of all the horrors:

“Sometimes they are so loud and... vicious... I can't hear myself think. Other times they’re so... alive, they turn into visions, the images so gruesome, I can't even...”

He rubs his forehead with those narrow, shaky hands, as if he is trying to scrub some unforgettable savagery from his brain and it takes a long moment before he's able to continue.

“I used to take potions to get some sleep, but these days I'd have to take a deadly dose for it to work. I go to clubs, like the one your brother found me in, where the music is so loud it can at least mask their roaring and their screams, and some days, when I'm lucky, I catch an hour or two of sleep. My head hurts all the time and I can't focus on anything much. I stopped using my wand altogether; I can't do the simplest of charms anymore.”

“I would have finished myself off, but I can't think straight for long enough to figure out how to do it, you know, properly, with as little hurt as possible to my mother and father. They've been through enough, my mother especially. I just... want it to end.”

He looks my brother in the eye and his bony fingers grip around his wrist. There is a meaning in his eyes that I don't want to know about. “Help me... stop it. Finish it. Somehow. Anyhow. If you can't, you have to help me finish myself. It's all I ask. It would be an act of mercy. I cannot go on like that. Please... Weasley... please.”

The hands he grips my brother with start shaking uncontrollably and his eyes lose focus.

“They're back...” he says faintly, nearly breathless, and that look of sheer horror that has been haunting me from earlier that night spreads across his face once again. “Fuck... oh, god, they're back... please...”

And my brother does what he does best. Curses him out flat.

“So he can rest some,” he says apologetically when he intercepts his limp body before it hits the ground. “It's all I could think of on such short notice.”

~

Bill tells me to stay with him. He needs a day... or three... to look into it further and someone has to take care of Malfoy in the mean time. The healers are more than happy to let me have the job. I'm not really... good at that. I don't think I'm the caring type much, but I'm my mother's son and growing up with brothers like mine – well, you find yourself – or your brothers – bedbound often enough. So, basically, I just sit there like a pickle in a jar, cleaning the guy, keeping his lips wet and making sure all his bodily functions are properly served, wishing with all my heart I'd have Madam Pomfrey's direct Floo address to exchange tips on caring for those knocked out flat.

Out of sheer boredom, I even comb his hair once. Out of boredom, mind you, and not because his hair, so impossibly soft and lustrous as if it captures light, is the only thing that still makes him look like the old Malfoy... and those long silken strands just happen to smell like a bloody aphrodisiac on top of that... no, most certainly not, that bit was a mistake, I, er... don’t like his hair that way. And that back rub I gave him was to make sure he didn't get bedsores and don't you even get hinting at anything other than that! I most certainly wasn't interested to see what he looked like with no shirt on. All long lean muscles, in case you wanted to know. And bones. A scary amount of fragile-looking bones. Certainly not my type. If I was into guys, er, technically speaking, you know... I'd like one with just about half of Malfoy's bones. The muscles, however, were... nice. They were... er, very nice.

And then Bill comes once a day, wakes him up from hibernation, casts this Egyptian mumbo-jumbo on him again before he can turn all shaky and incoherent, so they can talk - and he asks him all kinds of possible and impossible questions, seriously, things you wouldn't think could make a difference, like what he ate before he was hexed or are there any circumstances in which the voices are louder than others, do they ever shut up... And you know, Malfoy is his usual useless self, not knowing much of anything, just terribly exhausted all the time and - bald and naked Godric, is he hungry! You think I'm the one with hollow legs?! You should see him devour my mother's homemade meal - he ate so fast, I thought I actually saw him chew off a chunk of the fork at one point and he just downed the whole thing in five big gulps!

And because he's too damn weak, even after two days, I have to hold him up and right before Bill knocks him out again, he tells me to hold his hand, so he won’t go into shock, because, technically speaking, one could only use the curse Bill's using on Malfoy once in a lifetime, or it might permanently damage one's brain. The moment Bill tells him that bluntly, I feel my muscles go rigid, thinking that this is the moment when it's all going to come to a halt, because – dead-frightened or not - Malfoy certainly isn't a enough of a fool to risk getting his brains fried by more dark shit... but this once he actually manages to surprise me.

Before I know it, his long, bony fingers wrap around my hand and he lies down without a single word of objection. Even my brother is surprised enough to hesitate and at this point the blond menace just sighs and tells him that it's not like he has much of a functioning brain left to damage, does he, so if he has to choose between a chance of total oblivion and a head bursting open with screaming, the choice, for him, is unfortunately obvious, even if that means holding the hand of yours truly here.

It shouldn't make me so begrudgingly... stupidly... happy that holding my hand suddenly doesn't seem too high a price to pay to the git, but it does, embarrassingly so, and when it's time, the hold of his hand is by no means reluctant – it closer to that “holding on for dear life” feeling and, surprisingly enough, in that last moment his incomprehensible grey eyes are on me and my gut just clenches tightly... And bam! – he's out for another day, still clutching my hand. Which, to be honest, I don’t mind much... er... no.

Anyway, I'm bored. And out of sheer boredom – and not because I would be desperate to help, no, nope, what an absurd thought, help the evil blond git, honestly! - I start thinking of ways and options and possible solutions in case, you know, Bill is right and there is no cure for Malfoy. And I only ever come down to one. A scary one. A very, very scary one. One, possibly a bit mad around the edges. You know, just one up my alley.

Only... I most definitely don’t have the courage to even say it out loud. Let alone go through with it. There is too much to lose.

On the third day, Bill returns, looking just about as worn out as Malfoy started out and you know, after two days of full-on sleeping and stuffing himself silly, Malfoy might actually look better than Bill, who's grey in the face from the sleepless nights and there isn't much of a gleam left in those usually sparkly blue eyes we both inherited from our father.

He doesn't wake Malfoy up immediately. He sits next to me instead and puts his hand on my knee.

“How are you?” he wants to know in a hushed voice, appropriately tuned down to the volume customary for the hospitals. I just shrug and mumble something about being tired, which is true; I've only slept on a chair by Malfoy's bed, padded with a cushioning charm and at one point I was probably dead out, because I woke up with my arse still stuck in the chair, but my head was tucked under Malfoy's arm. And it was kind of, maybe, fine this way. He just grunted in his sleep when I tried to move, so I didn’t and we continued to slumber until they brought in breakfast for me in the morning. Nothing awkward going on, get out of here, nothing to see! Damn, the audacity of the hospital staff these days!

But you sort of have to understand I'm not very eager to let Bill in on the fairly insignificant details of my dealings with Malfoy... He might just jump to entirely, absurdly wrong conclusions, so many of them, so I just kind of stir the conversation away from the shady waters and ask:

“Can you help him, you think? Have you found something, then? My arse is sore from sitting around this room, you know!”

“Ron, not everything is about your arse, and don't even attempt to make me think that's all you think about, I know you care.”

Whatever he was on about, I'll never know...

“It looks bad,” my brother sighs and that same cold that crept in and formed a ball of ice around my heart when I first heard Malfoy mention voices from the war, plunges straight through my defences and suddenly, I shiver.

“You can't mean that,” I tell him quietly. “You're the best there is, Bill. If there’s a cure or a counter-curse, you’ll find it, I know you will. There’s gotta be something, you know, like yin to yang and such...”
“Nothing that wouldn’t kill him straight out,” my brother says dryly and then sighs tiredly. “This is very dark magic, Ron, a very dark spell indeed. There’s practically an army of mental inferi living in his head and it’s not like I can set his mind on fire, can I? It’s Mesopotamian, that much I was able to figure out, but since the destruction of the Great library of Alexandria, the knowledge on how to purge a person of it, has been lost. Don’t you think the Malfoys wouldn’t have tried anything in their power to cure their son? Narcissa Malfoy née Black grew up next to Bellatrix; I should think if there was a counter-curse somewhere in those exclusive scrolls they keep in the Malfoy library, she would have known about it.” 

“Not to mention Malfoy Senior – if there’s one person in this world that man loves more than himself, it’s this one, right here, and I bet he wasn’t far behind our dear Bellatrix when it came to casting dark spells. No, I think the lovely Bella must have picked that one directly off the Dark Lord himself and if there was any knowledge in this world on how to counter it, it died with him.”

The silence lies heavy on us this time around. It feels like a block of granite on my chest and for some reason I find it hard to breathe. 

“So there’s nothing we can do?” I ask again, just to be sure, and he shakes his head heavily and adds quietly:

“Only grant him his last wish. Let him go... properly, by his own choice and under his own terms, no pain, no regret.”

And somehow the prospect of a world without Draco Malfoy in it doesn’t look as bright as it did when I was 16. I swallow thickly. 

“So when are you going to tell him?” I ask and my voice sounds hollow. Bill’s shoulders sink almost imperceptibly.

“I reckon there’s no point in delaying it,” he says heavily as if he has already passed this... unacceptable decision for Malfoy. “It’s not like I can keep on knocking him out with this spell, you know. It’s the only one that works, but twice was over the top already, once more and he may never wake up. I can give him his half an hour, perhaps an hour to let his family know, say goodbye and then it’s his choice. I can’t kill him, technically speaking, I won’t, I’d be send to Azkaban for it, but I can choose not to interfere if he does it to himself.”

And somehow it all seems wrong, terribly, awfully wrong. What am I supposed to do in a world without the likes of Malfoy?! It’s all the way too cheery for me! There won’t be anyone left to irritate me and to hate and avoid and... well, he is one of the kind, isn’t he?! Besides, we are related, well, sort of, aren’t we...look, I know it was centuries ago, but you can’t just let family die... not when there’s a slightest, craziest chance of saving them. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking - a chance, courtesy of Ronald Weasley, this should be good... Here goes nothing, then...

“What if it never happened?”

“Hm?” 

I see Bill look at me with no comprehension, so I repeat stubbornly:

“What if it never happened? The curse. What if she missed... or someone intercepted it... or something?”

He stares at me blankly for a long moment, his astute mind working around the edges of this crazy hypothesis and I can see the exact moment when the realization hits him.

“Ron... don’t.”

Bill’s scarred face is suddenly flushed with colour and his blue eyes are fierce. He’s bloody scary, that much I can say.

“I know what you’re thinking... and I can’t let you go through with it. If something goes wrong... the whole history of our world is at stake; I can’t let you go back and... no. I know you have a crush on him, but no, Ron, I’m sorry. That’s not an option.”

I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT HAVE A CRUSH ON DRACO MALFOY!!! I’m only doing this out of the goodness of my heart! Because it’s humane! Because it’s right! Because he’s suffering and I can’t stand it. I can’t stand the world without Draco Malfoy, the terrible git, either. 

I don’t even deign his very false statement with a reply; instead, I say stubbornly: 

“I can’t see why not. Harry and Hermione did it for a damn hippogriff, you know, and it’s not like I’d be saving lives! I’d just... fix this one thing - one thing, Bill! - a bit. You know, tweak the past just a fraction, so he doesn’t have to suffer. I know Hermione would let me... uhm... borrow the Time-Turner from her department, if I asked, explained the circumstances, and Harry, well, you know Harry, he’s a complete sucker for saving people and if all it takes is his damn cloak.... I can’t see how it could do anyone any harm!”

“Ron, sometimes you’re just such an obstinate pig,” my brother sighs. “Do you really think, that – if by any mad chance you’d be able to persuade Hermione and Harry into lending you a hand – you’d be able to just walk in there, into the height of the Final Battle, walk past all your friends and -” he swallows thickly, “- family, the ones you don’t have any more, and watch them fall and know that they would... that’s just... think about it, Ron! Could you really go through it all over again?! For Malfoy here, for his sanity?!”

“They’re all dead, Bill,” I tell him quietly. “But he’s not. Not yet, and as long as there’s a chance...”

“Merlin, mum must have dropped you on the head one too many times!” Bill growls at me so unexpectedly that I jump. “You know what a bloody chaos it was – what if you get hit!? How do you expect me to explain something like this to mum?! I wouldn’t know even where to start! What if you die under that cloak of Harry’s, lose the Time-Turner and let one of them get their hands on it, you... complete idiot!?”

“I may be an idiot, but I’m not the one who promised Malfoy here that I’ll do anything in my power to help!” I shout back angrily, because I’ve had it with everyone treating me like an imbecile who can’t tell which way his arse is pointing. “Everything in your power, Bill, that’s what you said. Well, it may not be in your power, but it is certainly in mine to try!”

I see that I’ve hit a nail on the head, because some of the colour runs off his face, but I know he still doesn’t understand, so I try my best to explain:

“Look, the war ended and no one’s happier about it than I am. For most it brought a chance of a new, better life – certainly for Hermione’s magical creatures, the whole Encyclopaedia of them she’s trying to save. Harry’s got Ginny and a chance of having a family with her without a threat of doom hanging above his head, which is something he’s never had before. You got to marry the most beautiful woman on the planet and you’ll be a dad for the second time soon. But what did I get, Bill? I lost more than I got!”

“I wanted to be an Auror before the war – and after seeing all I’ve seen, I can’t imagine ever spending the majority of my days looking at corpses and all the people’s malice! I sort of, kind of, lost my best friend – I mean, I know Harry never meant for us to part ways, I was the one who left the Auror corpse once I saw how much he enjoyed it and I never could - and he definitely deserves a better partner, not a half-arsed one. And now he spends his time at work away from me and his free time with Ginny – and there just isn’t any more left for me, you know, as hard as he tries.” 

“And I lost Hermione – not that I ever really had her, you know, but when the war ended... we just don’t have that much in common, you know? She’s ambitious and smart and focused and driven and sooner or later she would have gotten tired of having a boyfriend who’s none of those things. And she doesn’t put her heart first and I guess I want... someone who does. Someone who wouldn’t put me down just by existing, someone who would look up to me like she never could, like the entire world looks up to Harry, someone to be special for, someone to make a difference for. I can’t do that stocking shelves for George for the rest of my life, Bill. If I do that one thing, though... It would kind of all make sense again, you know. And if I die trying...” 

I shrug. He knows I’m not the bravest one out there, he knows I wouldn’t have taken such a chance if I really had something to lose. Which I don’t. Not really. If I kick the bucket today... well, my mother would probably be heartbroken and George would have to get another person to test his products on. Still doesn’t give me that much to live for. But if the terrible git over there survives because of me... well, someone would draw breath, because I’m here. Not because there was a war and we were all busy saving each other left and right, as anyone would; not because I was Harry Potter’s best friend and I got a chance to save his life on a few occasions – as he did mine. But because I made this choice. Because I, too, want to be someone’s hero. Even if they never thank me for it. 

I look at Bill and I hope he understands. I think he does. I think he’s beginning to. He sighs and it sounds awfully unhappy. But resigned. He’s going to let me do this.

“I’ll leave him knocked out for now, then,” he says. “Let’s hope he won’t perish within the next day, but if you’re really going to do this, Ron – and I want to be clear on this, I think it’s insane, terribly risky and crazy brave, just like you, little brother – then you need to do it within the next 24 hours or so. This time tomorrow I’m bringing Draco Malfoy out of this hibernation and I can’t put him back in, are we clear on that? Do what you think in that crazy head of yours that you need to do – and don’t you dare go and die, you prick!”

He hugs me unexpectedly, werewolf tight and because that just might be the last hug I will get in this life, I don’t mind it terribly. He has a hard time letting go, but we’re two guys and we can’t just stand there, in the middle of St. Mungo’s quiet room hugging indefinitely, so at long last he pats my back and looks me straight in the eye:

“Be careful, yeah? For mum’s sake, if nothing else. I don’t think she could bear losing another one.”

I nod, my throat strangely tight and I make for the door to bring my crazy, impossible idea to life.

“Ron!” He calls after me. I turn and he asks me: “Why him?”

“Malfoy?” I shrug. I don’t really know. “Because he’s... a loser... like me,” I try, but I’m not quite happy with the answer. “Because he’s lost without me.” There. All better.

“It’s alright to have a crush on him, you know,” Bill says slowly, with the most infuriating smile in the world. “I imagine he’s quite handsome when he’s restored to his full bloom. But if you’re going to be crushing on him, perhaps you should at least call him by his given name.”

I DO NOT HAVE A CRUSH ON DRACO MALFOY!!! For fuck’s sake. I’m not even, ahem... you know, it’s not like I’m gay. Or anything. Not gay, no crush. Period. But what I do have is two huge problems. Called Harry and Hermione, respectively.

~

“Ronald, are you mad?!”

It’s not like I didn’t expect it, you know, but seriously – after all this time, does she even have to ask?! Still, it’s Hermione, she always enjoys a good argument, so I indulge her and give it to her:

“It’s not like it would help if I was sane much, and wanted to do that, would it now?!” I shout at her and at least that knocks her off balance for a while. Not for long though, nothing knocks my Hermione out for good, I'm telling you, this woman comes with a built-in spring system – bounces right back in your face every bloody time. 

“It does sound a bit.... uhm, you know, mental,” Harry chips in, already sounding apologetic, because we're once again making him choose between us. Heeeey! We're Gryffindors, I want to remind him, we're supposed to be loyal to each other and back each other's mental decisions, you know! I went to the fucking Spiderland with him, didn't I, against my better judgement and I was never quite the same again! True, my suggestion might be a bit... on the far-off side of sanity, but it's a perfectly valid one against storming the Ministry full of Death Eaters Inc.! 

“I just want to help,” I say stubbornly. “I'd be really careful with... er, your stuff and, you know, my life – and I'd be back in a jiffy!”

“But, Malfoy, seriously?!” Hermione asks incredulously, as if I just proposed to invite a fully-grown troll to a Sunday tea-party. Leave it to a bloody woman to smack against the weakest point of my argument. Still... who's the chess-master on duty, I ask you? That's right, I am, thank you very much, so I better show my ex how to masterfully turn one's weakness into one's advantage. She forgets I know her too well.

“No one else will do it for him, Hermione. No one gives a squealing Pygmy Puff whether he lives or dies, no one cares if he's lost everything but the bones on him, some would be happy to know that he's rotting away, a prisoner of his own mind, some would even call it a just punishment. You should see him, love...” 

I call her that, because it always softens her eyes, even now it does, when we're back to being just friends. But it's not going to do, not on its own anyway. Time for a grain of truth, then... 

I try to recall Malfoy's face in front of my mental eyes to do this right and I think it might be working a little too well, because I seem to hear his screams ring in my ears all over again and that haunted, ghastly look of despair and pain on his face swims in front of my eyes and I speak hastily, to chase it away: 

“He looks... well, cursed. Damned, if you like... a ghost of his former self. He thanked Bill for having suspended the curse, imagine that! A Malfoy, thanking a Weasley... I never thought I'd see the day! Yet, it happened in front of my own eyes and that alone can tell you what a wreck he has become! For fuck's sake, Bill is half a werewolf and I can see he pities him! If only you'd see him so... un-Malfoyian, so stripped to the core, so... vulnerable and human... suffering... you'd understand.”

I plea to her silently, because I know it's really her I have to persuade; I've got Harry in my pocket from the get-go, he's a... different kind of problem. 

“Just give him a chance,” I whisper, when her silence drags on for what feels like hours and she still hasn't said a bloody thing. I can almost see the cogs of her magnificent brain working as she stares at me flatly, trying to figure me out, but when she finally speaks, her voice is almost gentle:

“This really means all that to you, doesn't it?”

I shrug and I try to act indifferent, but I've never quite been able to do it under her inquisitorial perusal.

“You know... yeah,” I say for the lack of better ideas and I see a small smile escape her.

“So let me see if I understand this correctly: You want to go back in the past, almost a year back... using the Time-turner the Ministry has entrusted me with and Harry's priceless heritage, the invisibility cloak... to land in the Great Hall amidst all the rage of the Final Battle... with the purpose to stop Bellatrix Lestrange, one of the most proficient dark magic practitioners... from casting a curse on her nephew, which may very well deflect from any kind of shield you're able to cast and hit you, Ronald... to save a man who made your life a misery his every waking moment and would most likely continue to do so, should he, by any grace of gods and St. patron of all fools, be saved! Do tell me, Ronald, am I getting this correctly?!”

She is right... when she puts it that way, it really does make me sound like an imbecile. I swallow thickly and open my mouth to say... godknowswhat, when she adds – slyly, if you don't mind me saying so:

“Unless you're doing it for love.”

I've already opened my mouth and it stays open. I'm fucked... and I'm fucked, on the left and on the right, pardon my French. If I tell her how... preposterous her proposition is, of me feeling any kind of... affection for the slimy git – she's not going to help me. And if I don't... Oh, boy, I should never have played with her; she knows me too well. 

“Bill says I have a crush on him,” I say miserably, because that's about as much of a concession I'm willing to give. “But I'm not gay!” I add quickly, just to... you know, say something, make a stand; for Merlin's sake, I cannot serve her my balls on a silver plate with a fork and a napkin!

“Right... Bill says,” she says wisely and smiles again in a way that would put a Cheshire cat to shame. “Well, just for the record... if you were gay, which, of course, you aren't, I would tell you that it is absolutely no shame in being yourself and I’d congratulate you on coming out at long last, after years of ogling Harry's arse here - ” 
“Hey!” says Harry, confused, with his green eyes as big as wedding dinner plates – but Hermione is Hermione, a proper tank when she's on the roll, and it would take a lot more than the Dark-Lord-annihilator to stop her.

“And if you were, oh, let's say, doing it for love, even affection, Ronald, then, perhaps, I might not neglect to tell you that the Time-turner will be safely tucked in the top drawer of my desk at Grimmauld's Place for the night, together with precise instructions on how to use it, and that I need it right there tomorrow at noon when I'm dropping by during my lunch break... But of course, since you're not gay, and you most certainly do not fancy the enfant terrible of the wizarding world, I cannot tell you any of these things, can I!?”

Huh? What is she on about with me fancying some elephant the terrible; I thought this was about me fancying Malfoy... oh... I mean, which I don't, I truly don't, give me an elephant to fancy, who was he again? But before I can figure that part out, believe it or not, Harry, that traitor, happily picks up her tune, a bit more awkwardly, but with the same shameful purpose in mind:

“Yeah, Ron... I'm so glad you weren't checking my arse for years, that's a relief, but... erm, this is why I can't tell you that I will have the cloak in question promptly delivered from my office to Grimmauld's place and you can keep it as long as you need it!”

He looks at Hermione expectantly, like a tail-waggling puppy looking for approval, but she just gives him a look that's as much incredulous as it is pitying, and rolls her eyes up:

“Oh, for the love of.... never mind... whatever. I'm glad that's settled. I really need to be going now, I've got some... instructions to prepare urgently, so you two – try not to break a bone, fall over your shoelaces or start a world war of any kind while I'm gone...”

Harry and I just share an indignant look – when did we ever fall over our shoelaces, honestly...?

“And, Ronald...”

She glides closer without a proper warning and throws herself around my neck... uhm... I guess I was wrong about that last hug coming from Bill... But you know, she is one of my oldest friends; we loved each other forever – and we still do, in a world's most complicated way – so it kind of feels right and I'm the one who really doesn't want to let go when she half sobs in my ear:

“Please, please be careful, I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you... I mean, who would argue with me to no end?” she smiles through her tears and after all these years, they're still kind of heavy on my heart – I was really not made to see Hermione cry. She tries to straighten herself out somehow, so I let go of her reluctantly, but she's still holding on tight when she looks me in the eye and says: “I want you to know, I'm immensely proud of you. And I'm so happy that you finally found love...” 

She all but squeals that last word and she must have anticipated the stunned, reproachful face I was going to pull, because she disapparates straight from my arms. Bloody woman. She still takes my breath away. There are times when I wonder why we ever broke up; they don't come any better than her. A bloody brilliant woman, if there ever was one. A woman, though. Not that that's a problem, mind you, no...

And then I feel Harry approach, coughing tactfully to chase the awkwardness away, and he slaps me across the back cheerfully:

“So... when are we going?”

And you see, this is that other problem I was talking about. 



“What do you mean I can’t go?!”

Yeah, how foolish of me... trying to tell the Saviour of the wizarding world, someone who practically made a profession out of saving people, that he can’t put his life on the line one last time for the guy he as good as hates... and risk losing everything he was granted after the war – a blooming relationship, a chance at a family, his life... 

“Harry, don’t be daft! It’s not like we have two cloaks, you know! And it’s not like we’ve been properly able to fit under one since we were 14! We’d be roast as soon as we had a chance to enter the castle! I reckon someone would be able to spot two pairs of bodiless feet roaming about the Great Hall! Besides, should Ginny ever find out...”

I shiver. He looks uncomfortable as well. Maybe some common sense can still be knocked into his thick green-eyed skull after all! Still, he looks more disappointed than the day he was told he couldn’t be allowed to go to Hogsmeade. At least he’d kind of expected that.

“I still don’t see why I can’t be allowed to go,” he mumbles stubbornly, but I sense he’s just being reluctant out of some sorely misplaced sense for self-sacrifice and there’s no real heart in it.

“Harry, this is my chance,” I tell him as gently as I can. “You’ve done your bit, more than so. You’ve saved us all, time and time again; you died for us, for fuck’s sake – you paid off the price of your parents’ lives ten times over. Now it’s my time.”

I see he’s watching me with lack of comprehension, so I sigh and run my fingers through my hair, thinking on how to best translate what goes on in my head into words he could make heads and tails of.

“I... my life needs a purpose,” I finally tell him. “I’ve been floating about this new life after the war like one of them balloons kids buy at Sunday markets. Aimless... all over the place... and just a little lost. I need a grip, I need to make sense... to someone; I need to make a difference. All of you have already done so – you’ve saved our entire world from destruction, Hermione is always out there saving someone and I... want to be someone’s hero, too.”

There, finally, the shameful, childish truth is out and if I flush any deeper, the top of my head just might go off like a cork from a bottle of champagne. You’d think I’m trying to win some prizes with all the heart-wrenching speeches I’ve given in the last day or so, and not get myself killed, possibly, for the terrible git slumbering happily in his bed at St. Mungo’s.

Harry doesn’t say anything at first. Then he just takes that one step closer and suddenly he’s hugging me like there’s no tomorrow and... bloody hell, what is it with people and their uncontrollable need to hold me tight today?! But this is my Harry and you know... it kind of feels right that he would be the one last person to hug me alive, if I fuck up royally. 

Because Harry just makes sense to me. My whole world rotates around him and it’s only right that it should be him. So I kind of don’t want to let go.

“I’m not gay,” I mumble into his hair when he doesn’t show any signs of letting go either – and I don’t even know why I felt the need to say that, but I feel him smile against my shirt and he says quietly: 

“Makes no difference to me one way or another, you dork. I just wish you told me earlier...erm, I mean, that you weren’t. Too fucking bad, though. I think my arse could have done with some of that ogling Hermione was talking about. It’s a damn nice arse, you know.”

I can’t help it. Perhaps it’s the nerves or the sheer exhaustion of it, of having to explain myself over and over again, but I just can’t stop my shoulders from shaking and before you know it I’m giggling like mad, with my arms still around him and he giggles along with me like a 12-year-old boy who just pulled a prank.

“Harry... you mad fart!” I manage to utter through my fit of hysterical laughter and he’s still holding onto me tightly, belching with giggles, when the fireplace roars to life and Bill’s worried face appears in the coals.

“Oh, please don’t tell me there’s something you two want Ginny to know,” he mumbles to himself with a roll of his eyes and then barks with uncommon sternness in his voice: 

“Ron, get your arse here and get ready to move. I had to pull him out of it; his vitals were fading rapidly and I could no longer keep him under. I reckon we’ve got about an hour before he’s in agony again and I’ve already explained him the basics of your insane plan. Just for the record, he perfectly agrees with me that it’s a right nutty one and he wants to talk to you before you go. But if you want to make this work, keep it short. You need to get moving as soon as possible.”

“But I haven’t gotten anything ready yet!” I squeal in panic. I’ve honestly thought I’d have more time! “The cloak is not here yet and the Time-Turner isn’t...”

“I’ve got this, Ron,” Harry says calmly and sometime during my conversation with Bill, he finally let go of me. I miss him already. “Go talk to Malfoy, and I’m going to deliver everything to you in a jiffy.”

That’s my Harry, all focus, no bullshit. You’ve gotta love the man. Like a brother. I love Harry like a brother and that’s the god’s honest truth. In spite of the arse-ogling business. I was confused.

And not a moment later I’ve already apparated to the hospital room with Malfoy and my brother sitting quietly on the bed, side by side. I can’t help but notice how much better Malfoy already looks after having slept for a few days straight. He'd bloody well better – he nearly slept himself to death! But as soon as I gain focus and balance, my brother moves for the door. He’s not going to leave me alone with the snake, is he?! I haven’t considered that; I’ve got no contingency plans ready! 

“Bill...!” I squeak most embarrassingly after him, but he just gives me a small, sad smile and says “Hurry up, Ron”, before he closes the door behind him.

Right. Erm... now what?! At this moment, life is full of scary possibilities – what if Malfoy asks me himself why I am doing this?! He won’t be fed full of bull as easily as the others! He’s a Slytherin; they probably don’t even begin their day without some hefty dose of Legilimency!

“Come, sit with me.” 

He finally points to the empty place beside him after he’s done watching me from afar. I approach him, my feet strangely wobbly, as if I’m all of the sudden not certain what the hell it even is that I’m trying to do. 

“Go on, then,” he says when he sees that I’m reluctant to drop my weight so close to him. “Sit down. I’m afraid I no longer bite,” he says with a tiny, tired smile in the corner of his mouth that brings an echo of the old Malfoy into the present.

So I sit next to him, warily, my breath hitched and my stupid heart beating as if I’ve just run a marathon, and I’m stubbornly staring into the empty space in front of me, expecting doom and such. I'm not gay, I tell myself with all the conviction I can muster. I'm not... Until his tiny fingers cup the side of my face and turn it towards him and I’m staring down the silver expanse of his eyes forever - and he slowly captures my lips and kisses me lightly. Ohdeargod. Merlin. That’s just...

It’s the gentlest of kisses, hardly more than the touch of butterfly wings, but I think this must be that butterfly effect I’ve heard Hermione talk about, because those silken lips are opening wounds and chasms inside of me I didn’t even know I had... It only takes that single touch of warm breath to wake up the storms and get some terrible yearning pounding forcefully somewhere just under the surface of my chest, and it’s threatening to tear me apart. I think I make a sound, an embarrassing one, of course, but he doesn’t care, he just pushes those long, bony fingers though my hair and keeps me close enough for my heart to break, and as he continues to play with my lips lightly, I think that I’m willing to die for what he just gave me. I’m probably going to.

“You know,” he whispers into the kiss, “I’ve always wanted to do that. You, Ronald Weasley, have the sweetest, most tempting lips I’ve ever seen... and I used to be insanely jealous of Potter for having you. I only got to have those spineless fools around me... and he got to have you.”

This is a world upside down, a world of misshapen, neglected truths, a world of wrong, in which Draco Malfoy wants me and not Harry, an alternative reality in which I get to be someone’s hero at long last. And because this world is all amiss and anything goes, he reads my mind.

“And now you’re to be my hero...” he speaks softly. “You need to come back to me safely...”

And for the first time since I’ve devised my mad, unfeasible plan, I realize something. And right now, it really hurts.

“You know, if I succeed, you won’t be anywhere near that club,” I tell him quietly. “You’ll be far away, living a good life and none of this will ever have happened.”

“I’ll find you,” he says quietly, with strange rebellious determination as if somehow, he thought about it and found a way. But I know he won’t. He won’t care. 

And then it’s a crash and a bang and there’s Harry in the middle of the room, having apparated awkwardly, with his arms full of invisibility cloak and another package and he blushes furiously and apologizes profusely as the last silken cobwebs of our kiss dissolve – and it’s time to go. 

~

Bloody hell, what was I thinking!? How could I have possibly thought I could pull this off?! Christ and Merlin, I must have been mad the first time around to have stayed about, but to go here once again... Mother of Rowena the Holy, I'm even more unhinged than everyone thought! I've blocked it from my memory, how loud it was that night. Blasts of explosive spells knocking into the solid walls around me, giants marching, people screaming, spells and screams and agony all around me... And it was almost as bright as in the middle of the day with flashes of lethal light flying out of people's wands, odd fires burning as a remains of the badly cast spells, or perhaps it was intentional...

I need to get my arse into the Great Hall and I've only been in this hellhole Hogwarts was for a total of five minutes and my hand already hurts from all the shielding charms I had to cast upon myself. Just a moment ago a stunning spell nearly got me, but what kills me inside is the people, all these people, still breathing, fighting, full of hope that they might yet survive this hell of a night, so determined, so very destined to perish... so many of them. Oh, my... 

My thoughts just kind of die a little and I forget to move. I can only stare at him, my not-yet-dead brother Fred, so very much alive and unaware of his fate, laughing at Percy's silly joke and... Merlin, I miss him! My eyes go misty at the sight as I realize how very much I miss seeing two of them, both of them; I miss that confident happy look on Georgie's face when he's standing next to his twin, and as much as I miss Fred, I think I must miss seeing George whole even more... 

How the hell did I ever think I could do this?! I've got to warn him, I've got to save him, them, I can't just... bloody hell! I'm partially deaf from the blast and I'm just... too late, too fucking late. The wall comes crushing down before I can make a move and though my knees seem strangely wobbly, as if they just want to collapse and let me mourn my dead brother, some odd instinct of self-preservation makes my feet move on, run away from the horror of seeing Fred die for the second time around, because I just can't bear it, I can't bear that last smile, frozen on his face and those horrible shrieks George gives when he realizes he's been cut in half and he will never be whole again.

But where ever I go, there are horrors galore. There's Lupin duelling at the side of Tonks and I just think of a tiny, happy baby Harry pays a visit to every Sunday and I just hurry, hurry, hurry along, because I'm doomed if I look back. But there's too much of it to run away from it all, and once I see Lavender, my sweet, soft Lavender, the first girl that ever paid my miserable self-esteem more due than it was worth, getting the life sucked out her by Fenrir Greyback – this is all so wrong that I don't even care anymore and I move in to help... but by more dumb luck than wisdom I barely manage to avoid the explosive blast that knocks him off her. My Hermione, who else, has nearly blasted a hole through the blood-thirsty fucker and the damage to his thick skull is further increased by a heavy crystal ball that just dropped out of heaven onto his head - and I think Sybill Trelawney might have just justified her existence to the gods. I almost want to cheer and applaud. Harry was definitely not the only hero-on-duty that night. Speaking of Hermione – where she goes... well, would you look at that...

I have officially got the best arse in Hogwarts! I'm looking at myself from behind and finally, at long last, I admit to myself what everyone already knows: I'm gay. Like super-gay, possibly über-gay, if you must... Obviously, it doesn't get much gayer than admiring your own arse in the midst of chaos and destruction! Yep. Not a shred of doubt. Great arse. A totally gay one. 

Poor Hermione. I feel like dropping her a clue.

But then there's a glimpse of unmistakable blond hair to my right and a crazy shrill cackle coming from my left and I forget all about my gay, sorry arse, when a cold hand of fear and anxiety takes a grip around my heart and just seems to squeeze the last beat out of it. Here they come; this is what I'm here for. And I can't afford to miss a single second; my aim has to be timely, precise and dead-on. He must never notice. And if she does... I really don't feel I've got so much more to lose at this point, so much has been lost already, so much more is yet to go, but if I can get this one thing right, this one thing... I will be throwing away the one chance of love I had in this life. That's just how fucked up my life is.

The wand in my clammy hand feels a ton heavy as I wait for that one precise moment and when I should be focused on her shrieks, the only proper clue I'm about to get, all I have ringing in my ears instead are his quiet mesmerising words: “And now you’re to be my hero...”, “You need to come back to me safely...” - “I'll find you” - and somehow I just know the right time.

The shielding charm I cast is so powerful, it nearly knocks the curse right back into her and she definitely sways on her feet from the sheer force of it, looking absolutely stunned and confused – but only for a fraction of a second. At the next moment her malicious face is staring straight at me... and there's that searing, livid look in her mad, dark eyes that tells me that the invisibility cloak might as well be transparent, because at that moment I'm positively, 101 per cent certain, that Bellatrix Lestrange knows I'm there, that someone's there. As she bares her decaying teeth, her vicious wand lashing up in the air like a tail of a scorpion, I look away, in the direction of the tall blond figure gaining distance with every step – and a lonely, sad smile escapes me. 

I know I don't want to die with her hateful face etched in my memory; I'd much rather die with the look of my one chance at love slipping away from me... and I'm strangely numb and sad inside, because in the end, it seems, I do want to die after all. I certainly don't move, I don't run, I just stand there, perfectly calm and as still as a statue, waiting for the blast to hit me, watching Draco Malfoy walk out of my life with what would be my last breath. I've done my job. I was someone's quiet hero. 

It takes nothing short of a force of nature, to break the still, numb shell I've locked myself in to hide from all the loss and despair I've put myself through – but my mother, who's just lost a child, had been turned into one. She doesn't even say the spell she hits Bellatrix with, as if such dark magic would somehow soil her mouth and bring her too close to the forces of darkness she lost two brothers and a son to. But the second I see the stunned expression on that dark bitch's face as her body starts falling apart and she dissolves into pieces in front of the very eyes and against a terrible shriek of her beloved Master, my frozen muscles seem to move out of their own accord and suddenly I know my place is no longer here, among the dying and the doomed. I cannot do that to my mother and as my pace gains momentum, I know I've earned my right to live.

~

Damn, that bloody machine is hard to operate! I nearly fuck up in the last moment – nine and a quarter, Ron, you blasted fool, not nine and three quarters! – and I almost, almost, send myself a shitload of days into the future, but I manage to catch the last ring from spinning too far and somehow, fuck me if I know how, I end up standing in the ruins of Hogwarts, the very place I've set off to my journey into the past from. At least I got the place right; I'll take whatever I can get at this point. It's nearly dark and from nearby I can hear the noises of wizards and witches, volunteering around the clock to rebuild the place. I've got no way of telling which day it is, but it's not like I care much. There is no Draco Malfoy waiting for me at St. Mungo's and Bill is safely tucked in at the Shell Cottage, pampering Fleur and her gigantic belly silly. Any day now, I'll be an uncle once again.

As I apparate with “London” as my destination, which is vague enough to begin with, I'm not entirely surprised as I end up in front of “M&W's Topless”. It's sort of ironic and only right that I end this crazy episode in my life at the same place it began. Not to mention that I need a drink badly, my mouth is still full of dust and ashes from the Last Battle. This time I know what to expect, so the volume of the music will no longer be a shock, but more like an old, welcome friend. I've got a lot of forgetting to do tonight. Only, there isn't an excruciating one... the volume, that is. Perhaps it's just me, or maybe hanging out with Malfoy has left me partially deaf, but the music seems a lot more... well, bearable than the first time around. This time I can actually hear myself think – and I'm not so sure I like that. 

But still, the place is just as packed as I remember it to have been. I get ready to start pushing through a sea of semi-naked bodies towards the bar, but strangely enough, people are moving in front of me obligingly, making room and the occasional “Hey, Mr. Weasley!”, “Hi, Ron!” and “Hey, lovely, long time no see!” flies at my head from all directions most confusingly and I swear I don't know any of these people. This time I also know better and I remove my T-shirt right away – it's only going to get soaked for the evening I have in mind. There, all better. But I don't get very far.

Actually, I don't think I manage a single step before the long thin arms wrap around me from behind and someone whispers in my ear:

“You're late, love.”

And my heart just kind of jumps into my throat and refuses to leave, because... because I know that lazy drawl. Oh, and I so know that subtle, intoxicating smell I inhaled not so long ago, in some mad reality, different altogether. I take my time turning around, dead certain he's going to jump away as if from a boiling cauldron once he realizes his mistake and I suspect it's going to hurt... too damn much. But once I turn towards him, with his arms still around me, he doesn't let go. He's smiling, something I barely remember ever seeing before, and he's the goddamn most beautiful sight I've ever seen. Not only is he healthy, he's glowing with health, his complexion is nearly pearly and he just exudes all that impossible style, finesse and, strangely... happiness? Malfoy, radiating with happiness... right, I think, or at least I try to, because all my thoughts seemed to have wished me farewell at the sight of those grey eyes, nearly silver with some kind of a hidden joy I cannot even begin to decipher.

As he leans into me and finds my mouth, I just... well, I am no fool, and not even someone as oblivious as I, with half my libido, could say “no” to Draco Malfoy tonight. I don't even attempt to. In fact, I might be a bit desperate in my effort to make the best of those blind moments before he realizes that the stupid disco lights or whatever other magic made him kiss the wrong man. Oh, man, the way he kisses... 

He's just got the softest mouth, gentle and demanding at the same time, carrying on that slow, ancient rite of seduction almost shyly, but once I've fallen for his innocent play, I find my tongue dancing to the tune of his and he's leading me on and making me moan in the middle of the dance floor and he just won't stop until my head is swimming from the lack of that little thing called oxygen and he smiles smugly into my befuddled face. He kisses like a true Slytherin. I never thought I'd say that, but those just might be the best kind of kisses.

I finally figure out he hasn't gotten me mistaken for someone else, that it's really me his after, and in my good old fashion of a fuck-up, I immediately attempt to ruin it all.

“What am I doing here?!” I ask, realizing the profound stupidity of my own question the second it is out. He seems to think it odd as well and his eyebrow arches in that familiar smirking fashion as he says smoothly:

“Funny you should ask that, darling... It's been ages since you cared to join me at work; I was beginning to wonder if you've forgotten altogether that you actually own the place. Well, at least half of it, anyway. M&W's Topless, babe, it has both our surnames in it – one should think that would suffice to give you the clue,” he says with his usual snark, but there's something in his eyes that doesn't make it sound unkind, just... domestic. Draco Malfoy acts all familiar around me and I haven't got the faintest how that came about. I'm not complaining, though. I'm just staring, mouth open, at a little apostrophe that makes all the difference in the world and for which I could swear that it was not there before. So – not Muggles and Wizards Topless, but... Malfoy and Weasley's Topless?? I own a popular gay club and I'm completely clueless how the hell is that even possible. 

I, apparently, own something else as well. Someone else, to be precise. 

As he snuggles closer to me, all smooth, lean muscle, warm, silken skin and bright eyes, he captures my mouth once again and whispers in between those sweet, alluring kisses quietly, seductively:

“I know I've asked you a million times to come down... and check the place out now that it's been renovated... but now that you're here, I can think of little else than getting you the hell out of here... and fucking you stupid, my gorgeous half-naked Gryffindor. You, Mr. Weasley, have got the sweetest, most tempting lips I’ve ever seen, have I ever told you that? Now, those are truly... terrible lips for my business, simply... terrible...”

By this point my mind is kind of all over the place already and all my other body parts are doing all the thinking, so I decide if this is God's cruellest joke, fuck the bastard, I'm playing along, because this is simply too fucking mind-blowing and too good to pass up by a bloody mile. No one's that thick, not even I. 

“Well, that depends on what kind of a business you have in mind...” I mumble into his mouth, painfully aware of my limited ability to sound tempting, but it seems to do something for him, because he just whimpers into my mouth quietly and before I catch on, he's got us side-disapparated and another blink and a half later I'm naked in the middle of an obnoxiously big bed that doesn't even look remotely familiar... but you know what – fuck me if I care. And as he proceeds to do just that, I realize that I must have, quite inadvertently, changed something after all – either that or hurt my head in the best of ways – and I'm kind of liking my new life; I'm kind of very busy liking it a lot right now.

I've got about a million questions and because I'm stupid that way, I actually try to speak, but he just shushes me up and as he continues to suck the very soul out of me with that heavenly, debauched mouth he owns, he murmurs quietly:

“Do shut up, love. Later... much later. I told you I would find you. Right now, silence is golden.”

I never thought I'd let Malfoy have the last say.