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A Soft Spot for Lost Causes

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Neville had taken the east wing, running the stairs two at a time with only a backward nod at Ron, and Boot had taken one look in the door and turned away, mouth twisted in disgust.

"I’ll do it," Ron had said. "You take the team and clean up the last of them."

* * * * *

He had expected children, maybe, or one of their own, flayed and staked like deerskin; the war was ending slowly. He had not expected Draco Malfoy, naked, kneeling, hands tied behind him with a length of black silk that trailed down over his feet, onto the flawlessly polished wood floor. Ron stifled what felt like a hysterical laugh; this was the thing about Death Eaters—the reason, perhaps, that Order was winning the war in the first place—they did tend towards the predictable.

Draco was very still; head bent, hair long enough to fall smoothly across his shoulders, a line of deep, deliberate, surgical cuts running the length of his spine.

Ron took a breath; Draco didn’t move. There were shouts outside, footsteps passing briskly in the hall, but this room was silent, peaceful, late afternoon sunlight streaming through high windows, a few candles in the shadowed corners beginning to wink into flame. Ron circled until Draco could see him, but Draco didn’t lift his head; his eyes didn’t flicker. He was, Ron noted, wearing a thin, leather collar, just a shade too tight across the tendons of his throat. Of course.

From behind Draco’s skin had been smooth, pale, unbroken but for the knife wounds, but his front was a confusion of brutal bruises limned in broken skin. An ugly line of bites marched down his left thigh, and there were deep finger marks on his jaw, his hips, most of them new and purple-black.

Ron crouched, and Draco’s head dipped lower, as if to avoid eye-contact. Ron lifted his hand to the collar carefully, without touching Draco’s skin.

"S’there a spell on this?" he said.

"No," Draco said, his voice a little rusty.

"Look at me," Ron said, and Draco’s eyes fixed obediently on his; unsettling, but clear. "Do you know who I am?"

"Weasley," Draco said, after a minute.

"Do you know who you are?" Ron said. He put his fingers carefully on Draco’s neck, near the collar, and when nothing happened, unbuckled it quickly, having to pull it tightly across Draco’s throat to get it open at all. The skin underneath was raw.

"Draco Malfoy."

"Yeah," Ron said. He expected to have to cut the silk tie open, but it gave easily under his fingers, and Draco’s arms fell limply, knuckles hitting the floor. Ron stuffed the collar and scarf in his pocket and pulled off his robe, wrapping it around Draco’s shoulders.

"Can you walk?"

He couldn’t.

* * * * *

 

The healer on duty fixed the cuts, the scabbed rash on Draco’s neck, a few of the uglier bruises blooming across his chest, and said,

"Take him home."

"There’s no—he’s not well."

"He’s not ill."

Ron pulled her out into the hallway and lowered his voice. He stood so he could keep an eye on Draco, who had put his hands carefully on his knees, but had not otherwise moved.

"He’s been missing for three years," Ron said. "We had initially believed that he had joined the Death Eaters, but—"

"You’re sadly mistaken if you think this is the first Death Eater fucktoy I’ve—"

"I knew him," Ron said sharply.

"My apologies."

"You don’t understand," Ron said. "I knew him before and he’s not—there’s something wrong with him."

"Mr. Weasley," she said. "People are dying in my hallway. He can’t stay here."

* * * * *

Ron’s flat was cluttered and a little musty; he hadn’t been home in three weeks for more than a shower and change of clothes. Draco stood quietly just inside the door, his eyes trained on the floor.

"You can sit down," Ron said. "Are you hungry?"

"If you wish," Draco said. He seemed to want to kneel in the living room, next to the couch. His hair fell smoothly over his cheeks, his shoulders, motionless beneath Ron’s second-oldest work robe, which he had fallen into a habit of wearing for important raids; it felt lucky. The robe was too large on Draco, shapeless, the sleeves drooping over his hands. Ron realized he was staring and went into the kitchen.

He made sandwiches and heated up a tin of soup, and then shoved the books and papers on his kitchen table aside and went back into the living room. Draco hadn’t moved.

"There’s food," Ron said. "You should come and sit down."

Draco didn’t use his hands to eat, just stuffed his face eagerly into the bowl of soup. Ron ate half his sandwich and gave up. After Draco vomited up his dinner – politely, neatly – back into the bowl, he’d lost his appetite entirely, anyhow.

* * * * *

He started a shower for Draco, found extra towels and a flannel, a pair of pajama bottoms and a clean t-shirt, shoved the magazines on the back of the toilet tank into a single stack, hit the sink and the bathmat with a fast cleansing spell. Draco was kneeling next to the chair in the kitchen when he came back.

"You don’t—" Ron said, and stopped. "Come on."

He was in the living room before he realized Draco was crawling.

"No," Ron said. He hadn’t said it loudly, but Draco flinched anyhow.

"I—"

"No," Ron said again, and winced as Draco’s shoulders twitched in alarm, "stand," he said, as gently as he could, and somehow got Draco into the bathroom, where Draco let him peel off the robe without complaint. Ron took in the faint grayish tinge of Draco’s cheeks, his bowed shoulders, the small tremor in his hands, and switched the shower to a bath. He waited while Draco lowered himself carefully into the water, gasping a little when it hit his chest.

"I’ll leave you alone," Ron said. "You—call me if you need help."

He left the door open, and listened intently from the bedroom, where he kicked robes and trousers back into the closet and tapped out a brisk spell on the footboard to fix the sheets.

"Better?" he said, when Draco was hovering in the bedroom doorway, his hair lank, making damp patches on Ron’s t-shirt, the pajamas sliding down his hips.

"Yes, thank you," Draco said.

"You should sleep," Ron said. Draco took two hesitant steps towards the bed, and then said,

"Are you, do you need, um—" his voice trailed off.

"I’ll have to take you in for debrief tomorrow," Ron said. He fished his wand out of his pocket to dry Draco’s hair. "Rest, for now. You can have the bed."

"Where will you sleep?"

"The couch is—is comfortable," Ron said slowly. Draco was standing a little too close to him, and before Ron could move, he lifted his hand and ran his fingers over the back of Ron’s knuckles.

"Come to bed with me," he said, his voice low and inviting, the tips of his fingers just brushing Ron’s. He had looked weak and ill earlier, but with his hair soft around his face, his eyes huge, the clean sharp arc of his eyebrows, he looked suddenly beautiful, tempting.

"What? No, Draco—I—"

"You can—"

"No, thank you," Ron said firmly, falling back a step.

"I’d be honored," Draco said, but he didn’t protest when Ron steered him into bed, and pulled the blankets up over him.

"You’re safe," Ron said. Draco stared up at him intently. "No one will hurt you. I won’t."

* * * * *

Ron took a long shower, as hot as he could stand, poured himself a generous drink, and fell asleep halfway into his report, hunched uncomfortably over the coffee table. He woke up dry-mouthed and disoriented, tumbling off the couch wand in hand. There were rustling noises coming from the bedroom, and as he got closer, he heard distressed, shaken gasping. Nightmare, he thought, and was unprepared to see Draco sitting up in bed to claw his shirt over his head, his mouth trembling. He was naked by the time Ron was in the doorway, shoulders shaking, panting, and as Ron watched, he scrambled out of the bed and crawled across the floor to kneel in front of him and put one careful hand on his thigh.

"Please," Draco said.

"It’s a bad dream," Ron said. "You’ve been rescued." He and Neville had barely slept for the last week, taking turns on the broken down couch in the break room, and spending the last night before the bust napping fitfully in a ditch twenty miles from the site. It appeared, Ron thought, that it was too much to ask to get a decent night’s sleep at any point, and then he lost track of his thoughts entirely as Draco leaned forward and pressed his face against his thigh, turned his head and rubbed his cheek against Ron’s cock, through his undershorts.

"No," Ron said. "You don’t—"

"Please," Draco said. "Fuck me," and then he made a low, horrible noise in the back of his throat, his whole body twitching.

"Draco—" Ron said. He crouched, and caught Draco’s shoulder; Draco’s back was clammy under his hands, and when his head flopped weakly back over Ron’s arm, his irises were alien, flooded wide grey.

"Oh, fuck," Ron said. He got Draco onto the bed, somehow, smoothed his tangled hair off his forehead, and Draco turned his face into Ron’s hand, curled his tongue around his wrist.

"Fuck me," Draco said, "Please. Fuck me, I want you to, I need you to split me open—"

"Now, just—Draco," Ron said. Draco stilled for a minute, staring up at him; his pulse was quick and uneven under Ron’s fingers.

"Fuck me," he mumbled.

"yes, right, I know, shh—"

"Fuck me," Draco said, frantically, rolling his hips under Ron’s desperate hands.

"I get it," Ron said. "You don’t have to—say that."

"I’m a slut," Draco said earnestly. "I can suck your prick, I—"

"How about not," Ron said. He was blushing to the tips of his ears, his shoulders felt hot and miserable, this fucking, fucking war, he thought, and said "Do you need to come?"

"Please," Draco said, licking his lips. "Please—"

"Maybe—can you jerk off?" Ron said. "You’re—I could give you some privacy to—"

"Please, no," Draco said, "Fuck me, please, I—let me come, I’ll do—I can do—" He was twisting eagerly under Ron’s hands, his chest blotchily flushed, but when Ron said,

"lie still," he went obediently silent, only a faint tremor in his hands to show how difficult he found it.

"Someone has to help you," Ron said. "Is that it?"

"Please," Draco said, and the faint edge of something like contempt for how slow he was, as though it might really be Draco Malfoy inside all that, made it somehow easier to put his hand on Draco’s thigh.

Draco’s cock was hard, and he winced at Ron’s first touch, but slid his thighs open. He twisted his hands in the loose sheets, waiting, his arms taut. Ron pressed his lips together and got to it.

* * * * *

In the morning, Draco was, inexplicably, better. Ron found him waiting patiently at the kitchen table. In the morning sunlight, the bruises looked worse, dappling his cheek, ringing his throat. Ron heated water for tea and put a stack of toast down on the table in front of Draco, who blinked a little, but then swallowed, and pulled the plate towards him. By the time Ron had finished fiddling with the tea, Draco was spreading a thick layer of jam on his second slice.

"How are you feeling?" Ron said.

"Fine, thank you," Draco said, around his toast. He looked warily at Ron and then took another slice of bread, adding jam to it until it was oozing off the edges.

"You’ll make yourself sick," Ron said. Draco put the spoon down.

"I’m sorry."

"I didn’t—have as much jam as you want," Ron said. Draco stared nervously at him. Ron changed the subject. "I’ll take you in for debrief today, if you feel up to it."

"And then?"

"I don’t know."

"Azkaban?"

"What? No. You’re not under suspicion," Ron said.

"I was a Death Eater," Draco said.

"Was," Ron said.

"How do you know I’m not still? I could have killed you in your sleep last night."

"I doubt that."

"I hadn’t realized the resistance had such shoddy methods," Draco said. "Perhaps I can do wandless magic. Perhaps they poisoned my cock."

"Your—they didn’t," Ron said. "And we’re not the resistance. We’re winning. We have the office space. And last night—last night you weren’t in much shape to do anything."

Draco looked down at the table. "I hadn’t eaten in some time," he said. "I was. confused."

"Malfoy," Ron slowly. Draco took another furtive spoonful of jam. "We knew about you. We thought you were dead. And I’ve—Death Eaters haven’t been exactly original in the punishments they choose to mete out to the followers who decide not to toe the party line. "

"I—"

"You’d been out of school, what, six months when you began passing information? And then you managed it for a year before you got sloppy—"

"Two years," Draco said.

"And then you got caught, and you were so pretty they didn’t want to kill you right away, and they—. And now here you are." Draco sucked in a quick breath and took the last piece of toast.

"And do all the little whores get to stay at Ron Weasley’s fantastic therapeutic get-away?" he said finally.

"No," Ron said.

* * * * *

"Malfoy," Hermione said, ushering them into her office, which was long and narrow and lit with floating glass baubles which Hermione had invented. They tended to hang a little too low, and Hermione batted one out of the way and turned back to Draco. "Where did they find you? I thought we only recovered some kind of sex—"

"Hermione," Ron said.

"That was me," Draco said helpfully.

"Ah, right," Hermione said. She walked to the opposite wall and yanked an intricately coded map dotted with pins down the wall. "Now, you were the one with the fantastic cryptograms, correct? I thought as much. Or it could have been Gregory Goyle, as he was quite gifted in arithmancy as well. Is he—"

"Dead," Draco said.

"Pity," Hermione said. She touching three of the pins and the map projected hugely enlarged cryptograms on the opposite wall, symbols scrolling too quickly for Ron to follow. "How are you? I expect you’ll want to get vetted by one of our medics—"

"I’m fine," Draco said. He had crossed the room to examine the map, and touched a fourth pin.

"You weren’t last night," Ron said. Draco had been calm during debrief, sipping veritaserum-doctored cocoa, obligingly listing everyone he could recall having met in the past three years, and Ron had not wanted to bring it up on the record, in front of Neville. Hermione, however, had always been good for a private consultation. She met Ron’s eyes as Draco looked curiously at the map, and then over his shoulder at the projected figures across the room.

"What about last night?" Hermione said. Draco lifted one shoulder.

"Nothing."

"It might happen again," Ron said, "and then what—"

Draco sighed. Hermione waved her wand and the cryptograms obediently rearranged themselves. "I asked nicely, and Weasley jerked me off," Draco said.

"What?" The cryptograms stilled, for a split second, one of them sliding lopsidedly into the window and disappearing.

"That’s not—" Ron said. "I didn’t—"

"That’s what happened," Draco said.

"He was feverish, ill—he was in pain," Ron said to Hermione. "I had to."

"In pain," Hermione said, giving Ron her full attention. "Julian Huggins tried that one on me when we were fifteen, and I didn’t believe him then."

"It’s not funny," Ron said.

"I think it’s funny," Draco said.

"You—" Ron said, at a loss for words, at the same time that Hermione said, "Come here," to Draco, and put the tip of her wand against his breastbone.

"Hermione," Ron said.

"Shut up," she said. She frowned for a minute and drew in a quick breath through her nose. They stood in silence for nearly five minutes while Hermione stared blankly ahead. She muttered a spell, now and again. Ron stared at Draco’s hands, quiet and open against his thighs.

"All right," Hermione said, finally. "I apologize, Ron. As near as I can tell, it’s a slow acting spell in the Imperius family. It’s a torture device designed for amusement—would you happen to recall something of the sort being cast?"

Draco shook his head. Hermione frowned and tapped her teeth with her wand. "But you recall other incidents where you required—assistance?"

"It was rare for it to get as bad as—as last night. No one usually waited that long to fuck me."

"It’s dependent on your achieving orgasm, however," Hermione said calmly. Ron flinched.

"Correct."

"Interesting," Hermione said. "Sadistic, of course. My sympathies. Did it subside if you were beaten, or knocked unconcious—"

"No," Draco said.

"Hermione," Ron said. "That’s enough."

"Right, well, it will wear off," Hermione said.

"Wait, what?" Ron said. "It—when?"

"I don’t know," Hermione said. "It depends on how long he was under the spell, the frequency, caster’s strength, a number of factors—it’s Bolactarum’s Algorithm," she added, turning her attention back to Draco.

"Yeah, of course," Draco said. "Has anyone developed a reliable measure of—"

"Not yet," Hermione said, turning to her bookshelf and pulling out a small, fat book. "Some Americans are very close, I believe," she said, handing the book to Draco. "Page 569, you’ll find a very interesting article—"

"Excuse me," Ron said. A forgotten cryptogram scrolled across his face. Hermione had already opened the book and was pointing out formulae; both she and Draco stared dimly at Ron, as though they had forgotten his presence. "This is going to keep happening?" Ron said. "I—Hermione, there’s got to be something you can give him, or a spell."

"There isn’t," Hermione said, "and you know well enough that potion interactions on top of complex spells can be permanently crippling so—"

"But people can throw off Imperius."

"Sometimes," Hermione said. "This is a targeted behavior spell, so it’s stronger, more difficult to fight."

"Look, I don’t want to be a bother," Draco said. "It shouldn’t too hard to find someone else to fuck me—

"Draco—I’m not, I didn’t, Hermione," Ron said. "I just helped."

"because something like 200 Death Eaters can’t be wrong—" Draco said, shrugging.

"Yes, they can—" Ron said.

"Shut up," Hermione said. Draco fell instantly silent.

"Stop following orders," Ron said loudly. "You don’t have to listen to her."

"You too," Hermione said. "In fact, Ron, just wait in the hallway for a minute."

The chairs outside Hermione’s office were very uncomfortable. Ron rubbed at his eyes and rested his elbows on his knees, and thought good thoughts, about naps, or perhaps being in a peaceful coma for a few weeks.

"All right," Hermione said finally, swinging open the door. "You can take him home."

"Hermione—"

"Ron, is now the time to be selfish?"

"I am not being selfish," Ron said, standing. "It’s just that Malfoy is clearly traumatized, and I’m—I’m trying to help."

"Just take him back to your flat and give him a handjob every couple of days, it’s not the end of the world."

"It’s, it’s, please don’t say handjob," Ron said. "It’s—couldn’t we find him a girl, or. Someone who isn’t me?"

"He’s great-looking," Hermione said thoughtfully. "Did he look like that at school?"

"No," Ron said dourly.

"I didn’t think so. How long has it been since you had a shag?"

"Don’t say shag—"

"Since you had a f—"

"How can you even—they tied him up and raped him for six months and you want me to do the same thing to him, and act as though it’s some kind of dating service?"

"Save it, Weasley," Hermione said. "Consider this your punishment for callously laughing at SPEW."

"That was ten years ago."

"Six. Draco likes you."

"He doesn’t like me," Ron hissed. "He’s been brainwashed, it’s not as though I’m exactly getting to use my winning personality."

"probably a good thing," Hermione muttered.

"Maybe the first step to help the Death Eater Whore feel humanized again would be to stop talking about him like he’s not there," Draco said, from the doorway, now clutching a book, two heavily bound periodicals, and a folder. "Just a tip."

* * * * *

"Do you have a girlfriend or what?" Draco said, prowling around the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets.

"No."

"Boyfriend?"

"No."

"Shouldn’t you be neck deep in it around here?" Draco said.

"In what?"

"Sluts."

Ron opened his mouth and then closed it. "I’m having a drink," he said.

"Can we fuck?" Draco said.

"What, already?"

"Nevermind," Draco said.

"It’s fine," Ron said. "It’s fine."

He dropped his robe over the back of the couch, and, and after a moment, Draco followed suit, hanging his robe over the armchair, standing quietly in the middle of the room, wearing a pair of trousers and a shirt Hermione had scrounged for him out of the lost and found. Ron stepped towards him, and Draco took one small step back, and then another, until his shoulders hit the wall.

"Are you—"

"Fine," Draco said faintly.

"Good," Ron said. He shoved up his sleeves. Draco unbuttoned his trousers, his fingers a little awkward. He was only half-hard when Ron leaned up against the wall over him and slid his hand down Draco’s stomach to his cock, but it didn’t take long, all the same. The night before Draco had winced and strained upwards towards him, begged unintelligibly, twisted sweatily in the sheets, but this was short, and neat, and almost easy, Draco’s forehead tipped against his shoulder. He sighed a little when he came. Ron fetched a flannel from the bathroom.

"We can go to Diagon to get you a wand tomorrow, if you’re up to it," he said, after, for something to say.

"I don’t have any money," Draco said.

"You can pay me back," Ron said.

* * * * *

The following Tuesday, Draco followed Hermione into the break room, and Ron spilled tea on his hand, already half out of his seat.

"What are you—is something wrong?"

"Draco is working as my research assistant," Hermione said.

"Don’t you need clearance for that?" Harry said, hunched earnestly over his lunch.

"As of this morning," Hermione said briskly, "He has clearance."

"Fair enough," Harry said. He ate a handful of crisps. Ron realized that Draco was wearing his second best shirt, sleeves rolled up, the pocket almost comically low on his chest, a Gryffindor tie, a pair of green trousers that Ron had shrunk by mistake, which still lapped over Draco’s feet, and the pair of sandals Draco had appropriated the first week he’d moved in. It was summer, and Ron’s flat didn’t hold cooling charms very well, so Draco had been wearing his old t-shirts and shorts, using one of the robes Ron had shortened for him when he went out. It had not occurred to him that Draco might want clothes that fit, and Draco hadn’t mentioned it. Ron fished out his wallet and shoved the sickles he had left towards Draco.

"There’s a machine out in the hallway," he said. "House elves’ll make you up a sandwich."

"Stay away from the egg salad, if it’s that little greenish one with the stripy hat," Harry said.

Draco’s hand hesitated over the money for a minute, but then he gathered it into his palm and walked out the door. Ron took a listless bite of his sandwich, which was egg salad.

"Well, you can’t just coop him up indoors all day long, doing your washing." Hermione said.

"He doesn’t do my washing," Ron said.

"Who does your washing?" Neville said, who had just come in.

"Not Draco," Ron said.

* * * * *

It was oddly easy to get used to. Neville had slept on his couch for a month after Death Eaters had firebombed his flat, and Ginny and Charlie always stayed with him when they came through, and Draco was quiet and neat, and nearly always fast asleep when Ron left in the morning, tucked in on himself, face pressed into the couch cushions. Draco wore his clothes without asking and got a lot of pale, fine hair all over everything, but he didn’t seem to actively object to shopping for food, given specific directions, and on two occasions, left a sandwich waiting on the counter for Ron when he got home. Without the sex, it was exactly like the tiny apartment he’d shared with Harry their first year out of school, except that Harry had loud fights with his girlfriend at two in the morning and tended to leave pans covered with congealed bacon fat in the sink for weeks. With the sex, it was a lot like the half a dozen short-lived relationships Ron had had since seventeen, except that Draco wasn’t cold and silent when he came home after ten for the fourth or fifth night running, and he was better looking – clean, sharp eyes, soft mouth – than anyone Ron had ever convinced to have sex with him without the benefit of unforgivable Death Eater spells.

Mostly, they got to it before it was too late, and it was almost more difficult, to see Draco and know that he would remember everything, afterwards, to see the awareness and resignation in his face when he opened the button on his trousers. They were awkward with each other at first, and Draco let it go long enough that he twitched at Ron’s touch, sobbed a little as he came, but the last of Draco’s bruises had hardly faded before Ron became accustomed to it, to Draco sliding in his lap, face buried in his shoulder, his fingers clasped around Ron’s, riding his rhythm. He could anticipate the hitch in Draco’s throat when he came, the damp of the back of his neck under his hair. Draco tasted good, his skin soft, heated, the one time Ron’s mouth hit his temple by accident, and Ron remembered suddenly, before Draco had even been living with him a fortnight, that the real problem with living with Harry had been that a person couldn’t get any privacy to wank off, ever.

"I can—" Draco said, one night, his face still buried in Ron’s shoulder, his cheek hot even through Ron’s shirt.

"That’s okay," Ron said. Draco moved a little, his trousers crumpled open around his hips, lifted Ron’s wet hand off his cock and smeared it down his chest, shaped Ron’s fingers around one nipple.

"Draco," Ron said. He tipped Draco sideways on the couch and slid awkwardly out from underneath him.

"Where are you going?" Draco said, kneeling up, his shirt open, nipples still tight from orgasm.

"I’m going," Ron said, with as much dignity as he could muster, "to wank in the bathroom. If that’s all right."

"Okay," Draco said.

Ron leaned back against the bathroom door and unzipped his trousers hastily, and achieved a perfect, wet rhythm, hand tight around his cock, while thinking about absolutely nothing except maybe the one time he’d walked in on Hermione and Viktor Krum in fourth year, with Hermione’s shirt down around her waist, Viktor’s trousers open. "Sorry," he had said, and tumbled back out of the room. "Sorry."

He managed five, six long rough strokes before he bit his lip and stuffed his cock back in his pants. Draco was in the kitchen, drying his chest with a hand-towel.

"It’s not that I think you’re dirty," Ron said.

"Right."

"Or damaged goods, or—because I don’t."

"I know," Draco said, but he wouldn’t meet Ron’s eyes.

"Can’t a person wank in peace in his own bathroom?" Ron said.

"Be my guest," Draco said.

"It’s that you’re brainwashed," Ron said. "You’re very confused. You don’t even like me."

"Yeah, all right," Draco said. "Do you want a sandwich?"

"Remember at school? Weasel? You’re so poor and dirty?" Ron said encouragingly "You hated me."

"I did," Draco said.

"Good. You should just keep that in mind."

"You can fuck me," Draco said. He had sliced cheese and cold steak and was assembling two sandwiches on the kitchen table. "I know you want to."

"I don’t know what kind of person you think I am but—"

"I think you’re the person who’s letting Potter and Longbottom nail all the grateful witch pussy."

"I am not," Ron said.

* * * * *

Ron woke slowly, eyes gritty, the back of his neck crimped tightly by the arm of the sofa. He opened his eyes and yelped involuntarily at the sight of Draco’s solemn eyes, not six inches from his own. Ron closed his eyes briefly; when he opened them again, Draco was still there.

"What’s going on?" Ron said.

"You look tired," Draco said.

"Yeah," Ron said, swallowing, trying to remember what day it was. It was still dark outside; he couldn’t have been asleep for more than a few hours. He’d worked three double shifts ending with a grueling raid, in which Harry had broken his wand, and then his collarbone falling down a flight of stairs. They’d had to walk nearly ten miles across rough terrain to a portkey point, since Harry couldn’t apparate, and Ron had had only enough strength to see Harry to St. Mungo’a before coming home and crashing into oblivion in the couch.

"You’re all right?" Draco said, touching his shoulder gently. "I waited up."

"You didn’t need to," Ron said, sliding lower in the couch.

"Hungry?" Draco said. Ron opened his eyes again.

"m’fine," he said.

"I could rub your—"

"No."

"neck," Draco said. He smiled, and Ron found himself smiling back, a little foolishly. Somehow, without his quite noticing how it happened, Draco got behind him and stroked cool, strong fingers over his aching neck.

"Draco, I—ah," Ron said. Draco’s thumbs ran out along his shoulders, and then the heels of his hands pressed deep, sweeping patterns into the stiff muscles along his spine, and Ron felt himself make an inarticulate sound in the back of his throat before leaning forward, capitulating. Draco’s hands crept into the collar of his shirt and back out, worked methodically down his shoulder blades and back. Ron felt his heart slow, his lids droop a little. Some distant part of him insisted on reminding him that it had been a week since he’d touched Draco, since Draco had bitten his neck hard as he came, and apologized afterwards, and then Draco fanned his hands through Ron’s hair at the nape, and Ron collapsed into some kind of inexcusable stupor until he felt Draco’s mouth press softly against his neck.

"Draco—"

"I could—"

"No," Ron said, even as Draco slid smoothly, naked, into his lap and brushed a slow kiss across his mouth.

"Clothes," Ron said weakly. His spine felt weightless, and Draco’s skin was soft and warm against his hands, the curve of his thigh, his already erect cock pressing against Ron’s stomach, and Ron was suddenly, achingly, wide awake.

"Hi," Draco said, his eyes lazy, pupils blown wide.

"How long have you been like this?" Ron said. Draco’s forehead was cool against his palm.

"Like what?" Draco said, and grinned sweetly at him. Ron had had a soft spot for blonds since fourth year, since Fleur, and Draco didn’t make it any easier, opening the top buttons of Ron’s shirt with one deft hand, kissing his throat softly.

"This is wrong," Ron said, embarrassed at how out of breath he sounded. "Let me just—"

"I want you," Draco said. Ron hadn’t had sex in six months, and the six months before that had been intermittent at best, before Rachel had packed her extra robe and hair potions, her shoes and the book she had left on his bedside table for two months, and slammed the door behind her. He didn’t call what he did with Draco—what he had been careful to do nearly every other day, until now, as politely and impersonally as possible – sex.

Draco slid his mouth insistently up Ron’s jaw, his hand circling Ron’s wrist gently, tracing down his forearm. "You can fuck me," he said softly, "or your friends, Longbottom. You could, both at once, I’d love that—"

"Draco," Ron said, twisting his wrist out of Draco’s grasp. He didn’t want to hurt him, and Draco seemed to take no notice whatsoever, cupping Ron’s face in his hand, pressing up against him. "I don’t—"

"No?" Draco said, and blinked, changing tacks abruptly, "No. I’m all yours, your—your whore, I belong to you, I’d never, with someone else, you can do anything you want—"

"Fuck—"

"You want to fuck me? I’m ready for you, I—we can go in the bedroom, or here," Draco said. He’d gotten the top button undone on Ron’s trousers, somehow, pulled his cock through the flap in his pants, palming him and nuzzling wetly against Ron’s collarbone before pressing a series of sharp little bites up his throat while Ron shuddered and bucked up underneath him. Draco’s mouth brushed his again, carefully, and Ron slid one hand into Draco’s hair and pulled him into a rough kiss. Draco’s mouth was sleek and willing against his, his tongue sliding along Ron’s lower lip, and when Ron pulled back he was breathing hard, cheeks pink, tendrils of his hair clinging to his temples, his shoulders.

"Yes?" he said.

"Yeah," Ron heard himself say, his voice thick, excited, and Draco slipped down off his lap, between his knees, trailing his mouth up over Ron’s cock, licking him wetly, one hand firm at the base of his cock, tugging Ron’s undershorts down around his thighs, his fingers grazing Ron’s ass, the sweet spot in the hollow of his hip. Ron reached for Draco, and only succeeded in sliding his hand into Draco’s hair, touching his cheek, and Draco made a soft, acquiescent noise, and bent lower on Ron’s cock.

"I didn’t—" he said.

"Sorry," Draco breathed, "sorry," and slid nimbly into his lap, again. He gripped Ron’s shoulder tightly with one hand, his shins pressing against the back of the couch, his buttocks rubbing across Ron’s cock with every movement, and Ron could only find it in himself pull at Draco’s hip, slippery with sweat,

"I’ll hurt you," he said, and Draco shook his head quickly, leaning forward to speak into his ear, his voice quiet underneath the roaring pulse in Ron’s temples.

"I’m ready for you," he said, "I did myself in the bathroom, waiting for you, thinking about—"

Ron kissed him, and Draco twisted in his arms and came down slowly on his cock, braced up impossibly against Ron and the back of the couch. Ron hadn’t known the position was even possible, and he suspected, dimly, as Draco twisted, rocked a little, that it was none too comfortable.

He wanted to pick Draco up and carry him to the bedroom and let him twist his ankles around his neck, he wanted to throw him down onto his knees and fuck him across the coffee table, he wanted Draco’s thighs sliding apart on his coverlet, wanted Draco kneeling between his legs, lips wet, eager, and knew he could have any of them, whenever he wanted, and Draco moved, mouth open, his cock rubbing erratically against Ron’s shirt, both of them breathing harshly. Ron tried to let Draco set the pace, but he couldn’t help pushing up into him, a little, and Draco responded to his every movement, finally grasping Ron’s uncertain hands and wrapping them around his hips, nodding when Ron pulled him closer. He worked himself on Ron’s cock a little languidly at first, and then sped up, contorted so tightly over Ron that he could barely work a hand between them to grasp Draco’s cock.

"Please," Draco said. He had one hand on the back of Ron’s neck, fingers half twisted in his hair, and the other gripping the couch behind Ron’s shoulder, and Ron had had rough, raw sex with people he didn’t love before, but Draco looked expensive and moved as though he didn’t care if he never came again, as long as Ron could fuck up into him comfortably, sprawled low in the couch. Ron sped up and Draco’s head tipped back. He moaned a little, and Ron was too far gone to think that it was probably an act; it felt real, the rough catch in Draco’s throat, the way his hand traced uncertainly down Ron’s chest, and Ron thumped his head back against the edge of the couch, hard, and came, shaking.

"Sorry," he said, when he got his breath back. "I—"

Draco was kneeling next to him on the couch, his cheeks flushed, his cock hard, dark red. When he saw Ron looking at him he spread his thighs, wide, leaned forward. "Please," he said, "please. It was—I was selfish, I’m sorry, I didn’t, I can get you hard again and you can fuck me—"

"No," Ron said, and Draco’s mouth worked a little,

"I want you, please, you can—you can do anything to me, I’m dying for it all the time, I can’t stop—I can be a girl for you, or Potter—"

"You need to be quiet," Ron said, and pressed his hand across Draco’s mouth, pushing him back on the couch in an untidy sprawl of limbs. "Let me," Ron said, and rubbed his hand down Draco’s cock, which was painfully stiff and a little dry. Draco made a short, confused noise when Ron licked his palm thoroughly and rubbed him again, opened his legs almost too wide. He was disconcertingly still beneath Ron’s hands, his breath coming in polite little huffs, his eyes wide and shocked.

"Fingers," he whispered, his voice hoarse, and it took a moment for Ron to understand, and a full minute for him to slide a hand underneath Draco, who lifted himself obligingly, one heel braced against Ron’s shoulder. Ron tucked two fingers just inside him, pressed a quick kiss to the arch of Draco’s foot for good measure. In his peripheral vision, Draco’s toes twitched and curled, and when Ron slid a wet hand up over the top of Draco’s cock, he convulsed, coming with a sharp, wordless exhalation.

Ron woke up sticky and light-headed in the dark pre-dawn, Draco’s belly beneath his cheek. He stuck his head under the tap in the kitchen, and woke Draco up long enough to make him drink a glass of water.

"How do you feel?"

"Headache," Draco mumbled. He squinted up at Ron in the low light, and then his eyes widened a little. "ah, fuck," he said, touching a few of the scratches on Ron’s chest.

"It’s all right," Ron said. "Do you—can you remember?"

"Little bit," Draco said. His mouth twisted into something resembling a smile. "I might have done something slightly embarrassing."

Ron swallowed, uncomfortably aware that he couldn’t quite look at Draco. "I can fix that headache," he said, and Draco acquiesced, tilting up his head for Ron to run his wand quickly down across his forehead, muttering the spell as he went.

"You should go to bed," Draco said.

"I—" Ron said. He thought of asking Draco into the bedroom and then thought better of it as Draco dragged the afghan off the back of the couch and tucked it around himself.

"I, uh—" Draco’s eyes were closed, his mouth already a little open in sleep, but Ron said it anyway. "I was embarrassing too."

* * * * *

In the morning, Draco was gone, the blankets folded neatly on the end of the couch, but he was cooking something, frowning slightly at the stove, when Ron got home.

"hi," Ron said. Draco had acquired a robe that fit him, somewhere, but he was still wearing Ron’s shirts. He poked at the frying pan with his wand, and then turned around and gave Ron a pinched smile.

"Sorry," he said.

"It doesn’t smell that bad," Ron said, lying.

"Sorry about last night," Draco clarified.

"My fault," Ron said.

"No, my fucking fault," Draco said loudly. "I—I didn’t think, before."

"It’s all right."

"It’s not all right." He stabbed viciously at the mess in the frying pan, and then said, "You like women."

"Who told you that?"

Draco’s eyes flickered a little. "No one. Potter."

"Harry—did he—"

"I asked," Draco said. He was fidgeting, nervous. He put his hands flat on the counter, back to Ron. "I don’t want to make anyone—"

"I could have stopped you last night."

"I know," Draco said. Ron stared at his bowed shoulders.

"If I’d wanted to," he said, "I could have made you stop."

Draco turned around. "Oh."

Ron looked at the floor, at the mess in the frying pan, and the pile of dishes in the sink, at Draco’s bright hair, and said, "I’ll buy you dinner."

"I made dinner," Draco said.

"It smells, um—"

"Bad," Draco said solemnly.

"That was—yes," Ron said.

Draco took one look at the vine wrapped trellis that overhung the outdoor seating area, the floating lanterns, the crisp white tablecloths, and said,

"Is this a date?"

"No," Ron said. There was, he noticed, a small mouth mark high up on Draco’s neck that he did not remember making.

"Do you bring girls here?" Draco said, flipping open the menu.

"Yes," Ron said grudgingly.

"After you’ve given them the shag of a lifetime?" Draco said, eyes narrowed in apparent amusement.

"Are you done making fun?" Ron said.

"Yes," Draco said. "Now, tell me all about this scandalous affair Neville Longbottom had with Pansy."

"Had, has, is having," Ron said, oddly taken by the shock on Draco’s face. "How did you hear about that?"

"They had Potter doped up pretty thoroughly today," Draco said. "He gave me a rundown of the good Gryffindor gossip and then squeezed Hermione’s ass."

"What?"

"It’s a nice ass, you know," Draco said.

"I do know," Ron said. "I was the first one to notice, ever. I invented Hermione’s ass."

"It’s squeezable," Draco said, and then winced as Ron fixed him with a glare.

"I like men," he said.

"You—"

"My recent. history notwithstanding," Draco said. "I’m. I prefer men."

"I had a crush on Viktor Krum," Ron said, after they had ordered.

"Oh, me too," Draco said.

 

* * * * *

The war came, as always, in fits and starts. Voldemort was dead, but his adherents were persistent and better funded than was convenient. The war, oddly enough, made enough time for Ron to jerk off guiltily in the shower, thinking about fucking Draco, more than once. It made time for Draco to flood the kitchen while trying to learn cleaning spells Ron had known before he was nine, and for Ron to find him barefoot and mortified, up to his ankles in water.

"I’m sorry," he said, twice, before Ron laughed, involuntarily. "Now I’m less sorry, asshole," Draco said, without real rancor.

"I like Draco," Harry said thoughtfully, looking up from the stack of field reports he was flipping through, taking occasional notes. He sounded surprised.

"Sure," Ron said.

"Maybe we were bastards to him in school."

"Maybe."

"He was a bastard, though," Harry said.

"Yes," Ron said, as though he had not spent more time than he should have – his lunch break, swimming laps in the pool before sundown, trying to remember every brutal detail of Draco at school, his sneering mouth, the way his eyes had passed over the twins, Ginny, as though they were nothing, the detentions he’d cost all of them, going to the trouble of getting an archive photograph from 1997, the last one on file for Hogwarts before Draco was pulled out, barely past the first few weeks of seventh year.

Draco looked young, that was all, and the imperious twist to his mouth that had always made Ron want to punch him when they were children looked like something different now.

"Is—did something bad happen to Hermione?" Draco said, one night, when they were trading cartons of Chinese back and forth, and bent his head a little lower when Ron said, "Her boyfriend was killed. No one you knew."

"I thought something like that."

"Why do you care?" Ron said.

"Why not?" Draco said.

"You were such a fucker in school," Ron said, kung pao chicken stinging his mouth.

"Yeah," Draco said. "Turns out I was wrong. Imagine that."

"Okay," Ron said.

"Humiliation always was my special talent," Draco said, his voice dry. "Speaking of which, can we, tonight—"

"Of course," Ron said.

"Are you going to eat that?" Draco said, appropriating the last sticky bits of pork in the bottom of the carton.

"I could give you a blowjob."

Draco stilled for a moment, chopsticks halfway to his mouth. "If that’s—what you want."

"No," Ron said. "If you want."

"A—all right," Draco said cautiously. "You have done it before, yes?"

"Yes."

"I—"

"I know it looks like they just foisted you on me because I never get any play, but I do."

"I know," Draco said hastily.

"Sometimes."

"It’s not exactly a revelation that you are a huge and desperate loser," Draco said.

"Great," Ron said. He leaned forward and took the carton out of Draco’s hand and put it on the narrow table behind the couch.

"I like—it’s nice to fuck a loser," Draco said. "It’s new."

Draco was hard before Ron lowered his mouth, even, trousers off, shirt open, thighs spread too wide, his toes barely touching the floor. Ron mouthed the crease of his hip, thumb smoothing lazily down Draco’s cock, and then hooked his fingers gently behind Draco’s knee and eased his legs a little closer together.

"Like this," he said. Draco nodded, face intent, not unlike the expression he wore in the briefing meetings he occasionally attended, now, sitting next to Hermione and taking notes in a thick black notebook. He still looked surprised if anyone asked him a question.

Ron hadn’t given a blowjob in some time, but he hadn’t forgotten how. He dragged his lower lip from base to crown, and Draco was quiet underneath him, his fingers twitching minutely. Ron sank down a little on his knees, and sucked until Draco was lolling against the couch back, one hand sliding absently down across his clavicle. Ron drew his mouth up and over Draco’s cock again and again, scribbled his fingers down the insides of Draco’s thighs while Draco shivered.

"Can you," Draco said, finally. "Don’t make me wait." His voice was a little rough; Ron could tell he was trying not to beg.

He sped up, crowded a little closer, sucking Draco with a sloppy, wet, rhythm. Draco was nearly silent, but his hands were eloquent, stroking along Ron’s shoulders, his cheek, coming to rest tentatively at the nape of his neck, twined in his hair. He tugged Ron’s head gently, the barest suggestion, and cried out when Ron anchored his hips with the heel of his hand and took him deeper, came in a wet rush, his fingers tight on Ron’s neck, dipping below the collar of his shirt.

Ron swallowed, dried his hand and then his mouth on the sleeve of his robe.

"I never—nobody ever did that before," Draco said.

"Never?" Ron said.

Draco shook his head and leaned back against the couch, not bothering to close his trousers, his shirt falling off one shoulder. Ron got to his feet a little stiffly, and Draco stared up at him, without moving.

"You want me to—"

"No," Ron said.

"Please—" Draco said

"Don’t—"

"Fuck you, Weasley, come on," Draco said. "I’ve had your gigantic prick already—why not again, especially since you’re so obviously in need."

"It’s taking advantage," Ron said, wishing he could close his eyes. This time last week he had had his cock in Draco’s ass, and he could again, easily, for the asking of it.

"I want you to fuck me," Draco said. "I like—having sex with you.

"You’re brainwashed," Ron said.

"Brainwashed to like sex?"

"Yes."

"I have to tell you, nobody really worked on the liking part of sex with me before—"

"Ah."

"There was a lot of beating, too. Kicking, that sort of thing."

"You just like it now because it’s not actively painful, then," Ron said. "Soon, you’ll get better, and you won’t think you like it."

"What’s your excuse?"

"I’m helping you. Also, am possibly a horrible person," Ron said, and let Draco thumb open his trouser zip.

"Possibly," Draco said.

"Is it really—um. gigantic?" Ron said at breakfast, hovering over Draco to make sure he didn’t burn the eggs.

"No."

"Oh."

"Big, though," Draco said.

"You realize I know you’re lying, now." Draco grinned, concentrating on flipping the top of the omelet over. Quickly, before Ron had time to react, he ran his knuckles over the front of Ron’s pants, his other hand still clutching the spatula.

"It’s big," he said.

* * * * *

"You can stop checking up on me," Draco said, the fourth time Ron came down to see him at lunch.

"I’m not checking up on you," Ron said.

Draco had a desk in an alcove of Hermione’s office, piled haphazardly with scrolls and maps and star charts, a delicately beaded abacus and what looked like a muggle calculatron.

"Where did you get that?" Ron said, pointing at it.

"Your father gave it to me," Draco said.

"My dad?" Ron said.

"I’m still not certain how it works," Draco said, punching at a few buttons. "I can’t get it to incorporate phases of the moon."

"How did you meet my dad?"

"Hermione," Draco said.

"What did you—"

"Oh, Hermione said, this is Draco Malfoy, used to be fucked by all comers, pardon the pun, but now it’s just your son, nailing him day and night," Draco sneered.

"I—"

"Oh, honestly, sod off, Weasley," Draco said. "Hermione said I was lately rescued by you, and he was dreadfully proud, and then he gave me the calcolatripe."

"It’s a calculatron," Ron said, helpfully.

That night, when they were a little tipsy after going out to the pub with Harry and Draco smiled at him nervously as he fumbled with the keys to the apartment, and said, "I need, tonight—" it seemed almost normal to steer Draco into the bedroom, kiss his hands and his stomach, his knee and thigh, to push him back on the bed and kneel between his legs to press a kiss against his soft cock. Draco gasped quietly, and threw his arm across his mouth, grew hard and wet in Ron’s mouth. Ron mouthed him gently, slowly, until he noticed that Draco’s breathing was labored, his chest hitching under Ron’s hand when he lifted his mouth.

"What is it?"

"Nothing," Draco said.

"You don’t like it?"

Draco swallowed. "I’ll say things," he whispered. "I’ll—I don’t mean to, when I—" Ron leaned down over him and closed his mouth with a kiss, one hand pressing into the pillow next to Draco’s head.

"I won’t let you," he said. He wrapped his hand around Draco’s cock and Draco shuddered, lips brushing Ron’s. He bucked against Ron’s hand, his fingernails scraping over Ron’s back, and it wasn’t impersonal or polite, not when Ron worked Draco with a rough, slick rhythm he’d never felt he had the right to use before, not when Draco crushed his mouth against Ron’s, panting with effort.

"Let me," he said, fumbling open the buttons on Ron’s shirt, shoving his trousers down until Ron was naked from throat to groin. Draco pulled him forward, insistently, until Ron had to let go of his cock to keep from falling on top of him, until they were face to face, and Draco wrapped one leg over Ron’s hip and ground up slowly against him once, and then again. "Like this," he said, one guiding hand on Ron’s hip.

Ron had spent the week lying in his bed, touching himself, waiting for Draco to need him again, but he hadn’t been able to conjure anything like the slightly damp curve of Draco’s spine against his hand, twisting at the top of each thrust, his stiff prick, the hot skin of his stomach. It reminded him of school, to be braced up above Draco on the bed, rubbing off against him, reminded him of Seamus’ naked skin, and Lavender’s thin cotton underpants, with tiny red hearts on them.

"Feel like I should be wearing a school uniform," Draco said.

"Me too," Ron said, and Draco grinned up at him for a moment before pulling him back down, his cock sliding wetly along Ron’s belly, brushing his cock. Ron licked Draco’s throat and stopped thinking.

"I always figured everyone put out for Gryffindors," Draco said, after, sprawled across the covers, still gasping a little.

"Hmm, no," Ron said.

"Huh," Draco said.

"Harry didn’t lose his virginity until he was twenty," Ron said, and turned his head so he could watch Draco smile.

* * * * *

May brought heavy rains, a leak in the roof, which he and Draco spent one miserable Saturday afternoon mending, and Charlie, who was chopping vegetables on the kitchen table when Ron got home after a week of dividing his time between pursuing a Death Eater splinter groups and mucking out the clogged storm drains at headquarters. There were onions sautéing on the stove, sliced chicken and broccoli and carrots, an open bottle of red wine, and Draco was sitting on the counter, clutching a glass of wine, his cheeks a little pink.

Charlie enveloped him in a hug and pressed a glass of wine into his hand.

"Sorry about the lack of notice," he said. "I’m only in town for a few days."

"I made up the couch for him," Draco said. His eyes met Ron’s for an instant before he slid off the counter and began to set the table.

They ate and talked about the war, of course, except for a fifteen-minute digression which Ron couldn’t quite follow about tracking dragon migration patterns. Draco started yawning over tea and the heavy molasses cake Charlie had brought with him and went to bed soon after, padding silently from bathroom to bedroom, as though he had been sleeping there all along.

Charlie set up the washing and then sprawled on the couch next to Ron, tipping his head against his shoulder.

"Aren’t you going to ask?" Ron said.

"’bout what?" Charlie said.

"Draco," Ron said.

"I knew you liked men, Ronnie," Charlie said. "You dated that bloke, that—what was his name?"

"Morse."

"Yeah, exactly. Draco’s—"

"He’s a Malfoy."

Charlie laughed a little, tipped the last of the bottle of wine between their two glasses. "’s no secret you’re fond of lost causes, either. Although, as lost causes go, Draco’s a hell of a piece of ass, I—"

"Shut up," Ron said.

"Fair enough," Charlie said. "It’s good with him?"

"It’s complicated," Ron said.

Draco was asleep when Ron crawled into bed, curled up neatly, facing the wall. Ron lay awake for a long time, waiting, in case Draco needed him, but Draco only snuffled in sleep and rolled over, flinging one arm across Ron’s belly.

The next night Ron cast a silencing spell and they fucked with Draco’s ankles twined around his neck, trying not to knock the bed against the wall. The effort made them quiet, despite the silencing spell, and Draco wrapped his fingers around the metal spokes of the headboard and stared up at Ron, his eyes glittering in the half light, his mouth lush from the kissing they’d done beforehand, shaping inaudible words.

"You’re so—" Ron said, before he could stop himself.

"Hm?" Draco said.

"flexible," Ron said.

Charlie left the next week with a hug for Ron, a handshake and a kiss on the cheek for Draco, and Ron bundled up the blankets on the couch and stuffed them back in the hall closet.

"What are you doing?" Draco said. He was standing in the door of the bathroom with his toothbrush in his hand.

"You don’t have to sleep on the couch," Ron said. "That’s—it’s stupid, it’s an awful couch."

"Oh."

"Unless you want to," Ron said after a moment. "I just thought—"

"I’ll sleep with you," Draco said quickly.

They didn’t fuck any more or any less, with Draco sleeping not six inches away from him, curled in on himself as though he had learned to take up as little space as possible, but Ron no longer had to fall out of bed and stumble into the living room to shake Draco awake when he had a nightmare.

"Just a dream," he mumbled, barely awake, the first time Draco woke up screaming and stared at him with blank, terrible eyes. "You were dreaming," he said, muzzily, and patted Draco’s cheek until Draco’s stuttering breaths slowed. Ron wouldn’t have remembered it at all except that he woke up the next morning with Draco’s head tucked neatly beneath his chin.

Everything that he thought he had already learned to take for granted felt suddenly new, the way Draco could very casually have sex in positions that Ron had only ever seen in books before, the sudden solid breadth of his body, now that he had enough to eat, the kiss Draco always pressed just below his left shoulder blade when he was fucking Ron, spooned up behind him, and the sick lurch in Ron’s chest the day he walked into the front office and saw the mission roster glowing orange, Draco’s name scrawled under Harry's, both of them tagged with a small, blue placard that read ‘in the field’.

Ron stared at Draco’s narrow, copperplate script for some minutes, until Neville came through the door carrying a thick folder and a cup of tea.

"Do you know where Harry is?" Ron said.

"No idea," Neville said. He tossed the folder on his desk and glanced at the mission roster before saying, "He’s in the field."

"Yeah, thanks," Ron said. Neville took a sip of tea.

"I’m sure they’re fine," he said.

"I don’t—" Ron began, right as Harry and Draco tumbled through the door. There were leaves in Draco’s hair, and Harry’s face was creased with a grin.

"See?" Neville said.

"We went on a mission," Draco said. "I hid in a ditch."

"Harry," Ron said slowly.

"I just took him out to the Coburg Farm meet," Harry said, rummaging through his desk drawer and coming up with a candy bar, which he split, tossing half to Draco.

"’s routine, it’s—"

"What if something had happened?"

"Nothing happened," Harry said. "Ron—"

"He’s been back a two months," Ron said. "He hadn’t even had a wand in his hand for six months before that, and he’s not—he’s not in any shape to be going on business—"

"hey—" Draco said, wiping a smear of chocolate off his mouth with his thumb.

"You’re barely past OWL level," Ron said, lowering his voice a little. Draco was wearing, of all things, a threadbare Weasley sweater; it looked ridiculously good on him.

"Nothing happened," Harry said quietly.

"Well, that’s just terrific," Ron said. "Let’s all act like idiots and congratulate ourselves when it doesn’t all go balls up."

"hey, now," Neville said.

"I’m going home," Ron said. As he left the room, he heard Draco say, quietly, "I better—" and even though he increased his pace, Draco caught him by the time he was halfway down the stairwell.

"We were careful."

"You don’t have to run after me as though—"

"As though I’m your fuckt—"

"Don’t," Ron said.

"I thought you’d be glad," Draco said slowly. "I know you wanted—"

"I wanted you to be careful."

"But Harry—"

"Harry is Harry. We can’t stop him from the stupid things he does and we don’t try, but it doesn’t mean you just have to run after him as though we’re back at Hogwarts."

"I didn’t—" Draco began, and then stopped. "I’m not running after him."

"yeah," Ron said tightly.

"What are—do you think he wants to fuck me?" Draco said.

"I don’t know," Ron said, as calmly as he was able. "Why don’t you ask him?"

"I want to know what you think," Draco said.

"Why wouldn’t he?" Ron said. One of Draco’s collar points was sticking up awkwardly, and Ron tucked it back under. "Look at you."

Draco smiled, his strange, new, eager, almost toothy grin. The strangest thing about it was that it made Ron nostalgic for Draco’s thin-lipped sneer; it reminded him of how much the Death Eaters had taken.

"If you want to go to Harry," he said. "I can—"

"If I what?"

"For sex," Ron said. "I’ll talk to him for you."

Draco slumped back against the wall, rubbing his forehead. "Don’t you—" he stopped, and pressed his lips together resolutely before saying, "I’m sorry. We can go back to the handjobs, they’re—"

"We don’t have to do that," Ron said.

"It bothers you."

"No it doesn’t."

"You want me to have sex with Potter," Draco said.

"No I don’t."

"I don’t either."

"I see," Ron said.

Draco shoved his hands in his pockets, and said, "I—have to sign off on Potter’s report." He spun and ran up the first flight, his robes flying out behind him, and Ron started down the stairs again, and was down two flights before Draco called after him, leaning over the banister.

"I didn’t run after Harry at school," he said, his face pale and indistinct in the shadows of the stairwell.

Ron stopped, and stared up at him.

"I ran after you," Draco said.

* * * * *

As always, June and the first halcyon weeks of July signaled a hiatus in the hostilities. No one could take a real vacation, but nothing had ever actually happened in June, for as long as Ron could remember. Hermione threw a party where everyone got pleasantly drunk and watched Neville and Pansy have a fight on Hermione’s balcony, Pansy’s hair wilting out of its chignon in the heat, Neville leaning calmly against the balustrade, his drink clutched in white-knuckled fingers. Ron lost fifteen sickles to Draco when Neville slammed the glass on the table and apparated, leaving Pansy in control of the field. Harry had a girlfriend for six weeks and rolled into work at ten looking happily shagged, Snape came perilously close to smiling at Order meetings, and Ron got Draco off three times a week, and helped him slog though the Standard Book of Spells Refresher course, [a Compleat Review for the Unpracticed Wizard.] He found out about it quite by accident, because Draco had brought it home in a brown paper wrapper, and blushed, violently, when Ron finally leaned over his shoulder and saw the chapter heading.

"Why—"

"I’m not. I’m a little out of practice," Draco mumbled, hiding the cover of the book with his hand.

"All right," Ron said. "Do you need help? I. you could have said something."

Draco shrugged. "I thought you’d be an asshole about it."

"Hey," Ron said. "I’m not an asshole. Have I been an asshole to you?"

"I—"

"Recently," Ron qualified, dropping into the chair next to Draco.

"No," Draco said. "Fine. If you have no other activities planned for this fine Saturday evening, will you help me with this stupid charms chapter?"

"I’d be delighted," Ron said, smirking.

"I’m deeply honored," Draco said, sliding the book across the table. "Play your cards right, and maybe I’ll repay you with filthy sexual favors."

His voice was joking, parodically sultry, but somehow the idea was still incendiary. Ron shifted uncomfortably in his seat, opened the book at random, and stared at the page, which diagrammed a series of intricate wand movements.

"Well, I don’t have to," Draco said wryly.

"I just—," Ron swallowed, and then closed the book and put it on the table. "We should only do it when you have to, because otherwise, I think, I just, it’s not a good idea."

He was stumbling over his words like an idiot, but Draco nodded easily enough

"I understand," he said.

"Good."

"So, to help me get over being a fucktoy—" Draco began, in a maddeningly reasonable voice.

"Don’t call yourself that—"

"You get to decide when I have sex."

"No—that’s not it at all."

"Because from over here, the ex-fucktoy position," Draco said, his voice hanging for a preternaturally long time on the f-sound of fucktoy, "it seems like there’s not a whole hell of a lot of difference."

"You don’t—"

"They told me when to fuck, and you tell me when to fuck, and—"

"You don’t really want to fuck," Ron said. "You don’t, I won’t be responsible for—"

"I think," Draco said, shoving back his chair and standing, "that you’re only interested in fucking me when I can’t say no, that there’s not a—a percentage in it for you if I’m not going to be begging you for your cock."

"That’s not true," Ron said.

"I know you like it," Draco said. "As far as I can tell, it really fucking gets you off to have me spreading my legs like—"

"You want to have sex?" Ron said. "We’ll have sex." He walked past Draco into the bedroom, tugged off his tie and threw it out the floor, flipped the buttons open on his cuffs. "Anything you want," he said. "It’s your show."

"Good," Draco said. Ron yanked off the rest of his clothes, toed out of his shoes, took off his watch and put it on the bedside table, and sat on the bed, which creaked slightly under him. Draco still had his clothes on, and as Ron watched, Draco took off his clothes slowly, almost clumsily, unbuttoning his shirt and trousers and hanging them over the chair by the side of the bed. He hesitated, imperceptibly, by the bed, and Ron felt the last of his anger evaporate.

"Come here," he said, and tugged Draco down on top of him. Draco kissed him, almost diffidently; Ron had gotten used to Draco’s impetuous, wet-mouthed kisses; it was a surprise to have Draco’s mouth on his, politely, sliding his tongue along Ron’s bottom lip gently, just the outside, until Ron shivered and drew him closer, twisted his ankles with Draco’s and said, "let’s fuck."

Draco nodded, and rolled off Ron onto the coverlet, face down, his knees parting slightly.

"I meant—" Ron said. Draco’s cheek was pressed against the pillow, facing him. "weren’t you going to fuck me?" he said.

Draco’s eyes were half-lidded, unreadable. "I didn’t mean it," he said.

"You don’t want to?" Ron said.

Draco hesitated.

"I want to," Ron said.

The moon had risen by the time Draco sank into him; Ron was heavily aroused, and Draco was slow, but not timid, his teeth scraping the base of Ron’s neck in counterpoint with his thrusts, his hands twisting in the bed sheets close enough that Ron could see the delicate articulation of his fingers, the blue of the veins just beneath his skin. He’d never been able to come just from fucking, but Draco’s weight on him, the uneven press of his cock, made him feel feverish, desperate, helpless. He spread his knees wider and felt Draco gasp, shove into him a little harder, faster.

He didn’t come when Draco was inside him, but he came the moment Draco bent and kissed his stomach, his breath caught in his throat, his entire field of vision taken up by Draco’s flushed cheeks, the deep quiet of his eyes, like the midsummer sky, like the still, vast depth of the quarry Fred and George had dared him to jump into the summer before he’d gone away to Hogwarts.

In the morning, he rolled his eyes at himself in the mirror and made a resolution to avoid poetry for the foreseeable future.

* * * * *

Autumn came abruptly. Ron went on a series of three day missions which seemed to begin and end with sucking Draco off in the tiny third floor water closet, across the hall from Hermione’s office, just in case the mission went long. Draco covered the coffee table with scrolls and books with Hermione’s handwriting in the margins and taught a series of half-day seminars on field encryption spells. Ron sat in on the first three, but no one gave him a hard time. Harry came to the second, took careful notes, and asked half a dozen questions.

"You don’t have to do that," Ron said, when they were walking back up the stairs.

"Do what?" Harry said.

"Never mind," Ron said.

"What are you doing for Draco’s birthday?" Harry said.

"I don’t know," Ron said. He hadn’t known Draco’s birthday was coming.

"Neville took Pansy on a minibreak to the shore," Harry said. "If you asked him, he might be able to tell you—"

"I’m not taking Draco to the shore," Ron said. "It’s September."

"He used to go to the shore when he was a kid," Harry said.

"What are you talking about?" Ron said, stopping on the landing and turning towards Harry. "Draco used to—how do you know?"

"We’ve been going out for drinks on Tuesdays," Harry mumbled.

"Oh," Ron said. He turned down the corridor and started walking again.

"We’re just—" Harry was hurrying after him, looking a little stricken. "I’m not trying to—"

"He’s not my boyfriend," Ron said.

He bought Draco a winter weight robe, dark green, with a matching paler green scarf, and left the package on the kitchen table, the morning of Draco’s birthday, without a card. Winter was coming; Draco got cold easily.

Ron pretended he wasn’t keeping track because it was easier that way, better not to think that it had been six days, or nine or two since he had had Draco’s cock in his mouth, his hands in his hair. Better not to say, during a polite and medicinal fuck, that he loved how Draco looked and tasted, how his eyes squeezed shut in orgasm.

* * * * *

Draco worked longer and longer hours, straggled in the door hauling bags of books; Ron found something about it oddly familiar, and comforting, prying a book out of Draco’s fingers when he fell asleep on the couch. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it until Harry said,

"He’s like Hermione, isn't he? Only not pretty."

"He’s pretty," Ron said automatically.

"Who’s pretty?" Hermione said. Harry blushed.

* * * * *

"Sex tonight," Draco said, that evening, yawning. "I got a curry."

"Oh, brilliant," Ron said, and took the plate Draco handed to him, into which he’d dumped half the rice. They ate quickly, Draco leaning back against the counter, Ron against the kitchen table, and Draco let Ron take the first shower. Ron was already half asleep by the time Draco slid into bed beside him and put a hand on his stomach.

"Sorry," he said. "I’d wait until tomorrow—"

"It’s fine," Ron said, "I’m awake."

"I can tell," Draco said, and slid up on top, his cock sliding against Ron’s, and Ron wrapped one arm across his back. Draco kissed him, a little, softly, licked the corner of his mouth, made a quiet noise in the back of his throat when Ron squeezed his hip.

"You don’t really like all that fuck me, I’m a slut business, do you?" Draco said.

"No," Ron said.

"What if it were someone else?"

"No."

"Someone without my particular sordid experience."

"You’re not sordid," Ron said. "You were brave—"

"hey, hey," Draco said gently. He cupped Ron’s cheek and leaned down for a kiss.

"Pansy and Longbottom," Draco said, curled up under Ron’s arm, after. "Do you suppose they’ll work it out?"

"I think so, yeah," Ron said.

"You know what they say about Gryffindor-Slytherin—"

"You don’t really still believe all that house stuff from school," Ron said.

"Everyone believes all that house stuff," Draco said. "Look how cunning and ambitious I turned out to be, after all—"

"You eluded capture for two years—"

"I got captured, and now I’m a research assistant, junior grade."

"Plenty of room for cunning advancement there, I’d think," Ron said. Draco hmmed a little, and fell asleep.

* * * * *

The second time Harry threw Duncan Almacy back into his chair, he secured his hands to the interrogation room table with a short-acting sticking spell.

"What do you know about Gryphon Sector," Harry said calmly, and didn’t flinch when Almacy lifted his head and spit in his face.

"I won’t talk about that."

"What will you talk about?" Harry said, pushing his glasses up his nose.

Almacy shrugged, but then smiled, a slit-eyed greasy glare. "What about Draco Malfoy?"

"What about him?" Ron said, sharply. The room wasn’t very large, and he was leaning against one of the wide glass windows that looked out over the situation room. Almacy’s face twitched into a grin.

"So. Potter let you have Malfoy."

"Ron," Harry said pleasantly, "Maybe you should—"

"Got a sweet little mouth on him, don’t you think?" Almacy said. "I bet you love fucking that—"

"You—" Ron began.

"Ron," Harry said. "Outside."

Neville brought him a cup of water, and sat down next to him on the stone balcony.

"Are you going to punch the wall or anything?" he said.

"No," Ron said.

"You know the thing about Pansy," Neville said finally, rubbing his thumb along the rough stonework, "is that she has something to say to me. And I—there are things for me to tell her, too." Ron nodded, and they sat in silence until Neville added, "Also, I take it you’ve seen her ass."

"I have, yes."

"No need to elaborate, then."

* * * * *

"This isn’t right," Ron said, "what I do to you," even though he had cupped Draco’s face kiss him, undressed him slowly, stretched him out on the bed and lain on top of him, coaxed Draco’s thighs open, slid his hands down Draco’s narrow sides, kissed his ear, the back of his neck, gotten him so wet and open and ready that Draco had moaned and slid his body against the comforter, urged Ron inside him, twined their hands together. They hadn’t waited too long this time, and Draco hadn’t begged, hadn’t woken Ron up to whisper in his ear that he was a whore and had it coming, and afterwards Ron had fetched Draco a glass of wine, none of it mattered.

"Can we talk about this later," Draco said drowsily, his lips faintly stained from the wine.

"Tomorrow," Ron said, and fell asleep with Draco curled in his arms.

In the morning, Draco clutched his toothbrush in the bathroom door and asked,

"Are you throwing me out?"

"No," Ron said.

"Because I can pay you—pay rent, I don’t have much yet, but—"

"It’s not about rent," Ron said.

"I—oh."

"I’m sorry."

"I’ll move out," Draco said. "I hadn’t—my apologies. I hadn’t realized it was a burden—"

"Yeah, such a fucking burden," Ron said bitterly. "The best sex I’ve ever had with someone who expects—nothing, who does my fucking dishes—"

"We can have more sex," Draco said.

"No," Ron said. "We can’t."

"Fine. I just thought—"

"I know what you thought," Ron said. He sighed. "Can’t you understand that you should have someone different—better. There’s something wrong with me," he explained carefully, "because I like it so much."

"Is it that you want to date?" Draco said, "go out with girls, or. because I—

"I don’t want to date," Ron said. "There isn’t anyone—but you."

"That’s good, right?"

"No."

"I have to go to work," Draco said, stepping past Ron to put his toothbrush on the shelf over the sink. His face was calm, blank with what Ron had somehow learned was misery.

He was sitting at the kitchen table in the darkening dusk when Ron got home, his hands folded neatly.

"The spell wore off a month ago," he said, before Ron could greet him. "I’m sorry."

"What?" Ron said.

"The spell," Draco said patiently. "It’s gone."

"Why didn’t you say something?"

"Come on, Ron," Draco said, lifting his hand and then putting it back down, flat, on the table. "I didn’t want to stop having sex with you. I—didn’t think you would mind."

"It’s not that I mind," Ron said. He had been hanging in the doorway, and now he stepped into the room, set down the bag of groceries he’d brought home on the counter. He put slightly unripe tomatoes in the windowsill, spacing them carefully. He ignored the way his hands shook and stared out the window at the park across the street.

"Ron," Draco said, close behind him. When he turned, Draco kissed him, one hand braced on the counter next to his hip. Ron opened his mouth and pulled Draco up against him, his hands tangled in Draco’s robes. Draco’s mouth was hungry under his, a little too much tongue and tooth, and Ron let himself get lost for a moment, until Draco gentled, pressed one last soft kiss against the corner of his mouth. He smiled, a little ruefully, but didn’t step away, and Ron touched the hollow of his cheek, ran his thumb over the nearly-invisible golden stubble on Draco’s jaw.

"This can’t end well," he said. "You have to see that."

"Because of me," Draco said.

Ron nodded. "I think maybe I’m not who you think I am."

"I know who you are," Draco snapped, eyes narrow.

"Draco—"

"I really like working with Hermione," Draco said. "I go in every day and we talk about arithmancy and maybe I have lunch with Pansy, or I—see you. And then I come home, and you make me dinner, and we fuck, and it’s all right."

"Yeah," Ron said. Draco was close enough to touch, and it was an effort not to take his hand.

"So I thought maybe we could do it a little longer." The groceries were spilling out of the bag on the counter, the jam Draco liked, the hot pepper sauce, because Draco liked his food spicy enough to burn the roof of Ron’s mouth. Draco was staring up at him, carefully non-committal. Ron cleared his throat.

"Just a little longer, then," he said, and touched the back of Draco’s hand, just where his robe ended.

"All right," Draco said.