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Beautiful Shame by CornishPixie

Format: Short story
Chapters: 3
Word Count: 9,275
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Ginny
Pairings: Other Pairing, Harry/Ginny

First Published: 07/15/2008
Last Chapter: 07/24/2010
Last Updated: 07/24/2010

Gorgeous Banner by Elysium from TDA.

“You should be thanking me,” Draco instructed helpfully, “you’re horrible at figuring out feelings. Hence my theatrics in there—“ Draco gestured to the pub, and then pushed off from the wall and slowly ambled past Ron, “—which proved rather astoundingly that…you want me.

Chapter 1: Damage
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Beautiful Shame
By CornishPixie

Disclaimer: Not mine.

It had started out as a complete mistake with just one innocent night at number 12 Grimmauld Place. It was record-breakingly warm outside on that late June night, and the house had been untouched for months so the build up of humidity had proved to be almost too much. When the five students entered, each had taken their wands from their pockets and immediately tried to remedy the problem. But none had ever really had to worry about airing a house out, considering whenever they’d gone somewhere it was usually inhabited before they got there.

Hermione Granger had been the one who gave up first, to the amazement of her four friends, and instead focused on figuring out a way to tunnel the hot air out of the house. So, she demanded with a flick of her wand that every single sock in the house levitate off of the floor and spin recklessly where they were. This, of course, generated some sort of cool air movement throughout the house.

Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger had just finished their seventh year at Hogwarts that day. They were excited, to say the least. Ginny had just finished her sixth, and even though her mother and father had refused her permission to accompany the trio, she had only shown them her sparkling engagement ring and had proclaimed that nothing could ever part her from her fiancé.

Mrs. Weasley had fainted on the spot. But that is an altogether separate story.

The five had entered Grimmauld place, their trunks floating along (disillusioned, of course) behind them. They knew that they had a lot of work cut out for them, but Harry was excited to be living on his own with Ginny, and had only been glad to oblige his friends to ‘Rent’ from him, (Rent being a loose term, of course, considering Harry considered most of the three that were renting from him to be family) especially with the whole ‘Horcrux’ fiasco dealt and done with. Voldemort was no more. The only threats around now were the roaming Death Eaters and the roaming Dementors(who were daily being rounded up by the dozen anyways, so they wouldn’t be a threat anymore soon enough).

Anyways, when it had happened there was only two of the five remaining on the main floor of the house. Harry and Ginny had gone to bed almost immediately after Hermione’s socks were employed with their magical spinningness, and Hermione had retired to her room on the third floor just after making sure that there actually would be food for them to eat in the morning. Ron was quite keen on this information as well, so he had followed Hermione to the kitchen only to just look at the food…but once he had seen the full peanut butter and honey containers, and Hermione had unpacked the eggs, milk and bread that they’d picked up along the way to the house, he had set about to find a knife and make himself a sandwich.

The last member of the party, after all of this, was still stuck in the front hallway. His arms were crossed over his chest, and despite the humidity his skin crawled so that his bare arms longed to be covered. The last time his skin had tingled in this horrifying way he had watched his mentor murder Headmaster Dumbledore.

And with that thought came all of the following memories of the past year of Draco Malfoy’s life. Even six months ago when most of the Order believed that Draco really wasn’t an evil guy, and had finally seen the sense in what Snape had been forced to do to Dumbledore, he would never have guessed that he would end up sharing a place with the Golden-Boy Potter and his three friends.

It had been Granger, ultimately, who had first accepted that he really was a pathetic coward who had turned on his father and followed ‘the light’. She was the first one who had approached him in his hiding spot at the Weasley house while everyone was there for Christmas Hols, and had offered her hand in friendship. Of course, she had ripped him apart for about three days before, going on and on about how much she hated him and everything he thought and everything he stood for because of all that he’d done to her and her friends…but in the end that had been a good thing. Because Weaselbee and Potter had gone with her since they feared for her safety, and after hearing her raging rationale behind her actions they had decided that she was right.

It wasn’t instant friendship with all of them. They still didn’t trust him completely, but they knew he wouldn’t hurt them or turn on them. Draco turned from looking into the living room that was off the main hallway, and walked towards the kitchen. His grey eyes found Ron just starting to open a jar of peanut butter. His eyes roamed and noticed the four pieces of bread lying on the counter to the right of the broad-shouldered red-head. Draco rolled his eyes, leaning against the doorway as he did so.

“It’s a wonder you aren’t a fat tub of lard, Weaselbee.” Draco drawled with a frown. He watched Ron’s exasperated reaction as the boy’s shoulders dropped and his head leaned back. Draco could envision the close-eyed look that Ron would be giving to the ceiling, but he was still facing away from Draco so all Draco could really see was Ron’s red hair glinting in the dimmed artificial lighting.

“Well if I were, Malfoy, would you promise to drown in it?” Ron had already gone back to opening the honey container, and though it was an insult, his voice held very little disdain.

Draco leaned his head against the doorframe as he stopped himself from smiling. Ron’s friendship was by far the weirdest. Draco still thought that Ron hated him a bit, and the boy had never stopped insulting him. Of course, Draco hadn’t stopped the insults either. There was something about Ron’s tightened jaw and reddening face that urged Draco to just keep irking the boy.

But it wasn’t just that. It was the subtle things that would happen that weren’t insulting to Draco that irked him. On Easter holiday Ron had fallen asleep on the couch that Draco always slept on, and since there was no where else to go Mrs. Weasley had sent Draco to Ron’s bed. It was the best night of sleep he’d gotten since he’d been at the Weasley’s, because the couch he usually slept on was about two feet too short to accommodate him. And the thing was, Draco had woken up thirsty two hours later and snuck down to the kitchen only to pass by the living to see that Ron was sitting up on the couch, clearly not tired, amusing himself with exploding snap cards. And then there was the string of articles in the Prophet that Percy Weasley had been writing about Draco, which had abruptly stopped fours days after they’d started. Draco had ‘accidentally’ overheard Ron’s voice bellowing from the living room fireplace to his mother about how Percy had no right to be talking about Malfoy like that, no matter how much of a git he’d been…

It was probably the letters too. Draco had to practically beg Hermione to send him weekly updates of what was going on with those he’d left behind to fend for themselves in Slytherin house. And she was faithful to it, until the middle of May when two weeks went by and no letter came. Finally, a rolled up parchment piece that was probably a foot and a half long was delivered. And Draco was surprised to note the messy handwriting. It was a letter filled with insults and gloating and rambling and…truth. And it had come from Ron. And every week after that the letters were from Ron as well.

“You know, that’s a really crude thing to say.” Draco responded to the last insult, trying to rid his mind of the many memories of Ron.

“You know what’s also crude, Malfoy? You telling a man who’s training to join the Chudley Cannons that he should be a fat tub of lard.” Ron was still facing away from Draco as he said this.

For a moment, a scene started replaying itself in Draco’s head. It was from Easter holiday, and he was watching an ongoing quidditch match at the Burrow safely from a window in the living room. It was the particular part of the game when Ron had decided that the sun was being wretched and he pulled his shirt up over his head—Draco forcefully pushed that thought out of his head, eyes narrowing.

“Do you really need two sandwiches? It’s almost two o’clock in the morning.” Draco changed the subject as he strained his neck a bit to watch Ron spread generous amounts of peanut butter onto two of the four pieces of bread.

“They aren’t both for me, git.” Ron threw a glare over his shoulder towards Draco, and then cleared his throat as he said in a noticeably quieter voice, “You like honey with peanut butter, right?”

Draco’s eyes narrowed in confusion as he openly surveyed the back of Ron’s head. He did not understand this boy. Not one bit. And he hated not understanding things. This was his excuse as to why thoughts of Ron just wouldn’t leave him be. He was just trying to figure him out, that’s all.

Draco frowned and pushed himself from the doorway, “Yeah…but I’m not hungry.”

Draco’s frown intensified as he wrenched his gaze from Ron. He pulled a chair from the table and sat down, his eyes distantly glaring at the tabletop as he scolded himself.

Ron had just finished placing the top pieces of bread on the sandwiches to complete them off, and as he turned with a plate in each hand and heard Draco’s answer his eyebrows narrowed, his teeth clenched.

“You are such an ungrateful bastard, Malfoy. So used to only getting things when you demand them, right?” Ron angrily placed one of the plates in front of Malfoy anyways.

“So…” Draco felt the sudden urge to try and change the subject. Now he just needed to think of something that Ron could go on about…Aha! “What is it, exactly, about Quidditch that makes you want to play it professionally?”

Draco almost laughed at how easily Ron’s angry facade changed into a distant, glazed over look. The redhead seemed almost wistful.

“It was the roar of the crowds that gave me heartache to play.” Ron paused after he said this, his eyes slightly unfocused still. Absently, he reached for his sandwich and took a big bite. Draco shook his head, and had to almost forcefully stop himself from rolling his eyes.

“Malfoy, eat.” Ron demanded, eyes snapping back into focus, and he glared at the untouched sandwich on the plate in front of Draco.

“I told you, I’m not hungry.” Draco was frowning again, and over pronouncing each word so that it would stick into Ron’s thick head, “why do you care, anyways?”

“I don’t! It’s just odd seeing someone I was once afraid of wasting away like this.” Ron’s answer was automatic, and as his eyes gestured to Draco’s gaunt frame both boys were sort of startled by the honesty in his answer.

“You were afraid of me?” Draco couldn’t stop this question. But it was something that really did confuse him…he remembered trying to overpower Ron, but only getting pure hate in return. He didn’t think Ron was afraid of anyone. Draco crossed his arms over his body defensively as he watched Ron’s face harden.

“You weren’t as thin as a bowtruckle back then.” Ron tried saying this while chewing, and it did come out…but the offensive tone he was trying for just made it all the more comical to hear. Draco sneered, and Ron swallowed, “Git. Anyways, I used to think you were some sort of…match for me. Now I could take you so easily.”

“Don’t kid yourself, Weaselbee.” Draco scoffed. But when Ron only sent him an almost sympathetic look Draco felt his teeth clench. No one was ever sympathetic towards a Malfoy. “I will bet you this sandwich that I can beat you in an arm wrestle.”

Ron took another bite of his sandwich before setting it down and nodding. “Alright, so when I win you’ll eat the sandwich?”

Draco’s eyes narrowed, “You aren’t going to win.”

Ron’s eyebrows raised and he only nodded. Draco could feel his blood boiling; Weasley was positively infuriating. Draco pushed his right sleeve up so that his shoulder was showing, he didn’t want any material in the way of his muscles, as Ron wiped his hands of any bread crumbs and set his elbow on the table carelessly.

The arm wrestle only lasted six seconds, at the very most. Draco’s arm gave way, and a yelp of pain involuntarily emitted from his pale lips before Ron let go of his hand and Draco clenched his jaw.

“You didn’t have to try and break my arm!” Draco accused through his clenched teeth as he slowly stretched out his arm.

“I didn’t! I just thought you’d be stronger then a five year old!” Ron glared at Draco, “You’re pitiful.”

“I haven’t been out much.” Draco was scowling now, “And Malfoys aren’t pitiful.”

“You weren’t chained down, Malfoy, you still could’ve at least walked around a bit.” Ron’s glare had softened though, and after this last insult he exhaled while shaking his head sympathetically.

“Don’t you dare shake your head like that,” Draco hissed, and stood so that he was towering threateningly over Ron. And right before he turned to leave: “I am not pathetic, I do not need your sympathy.”

“Dra—“ Ron’s voice cut out when he realized what he was saying, and instead opted for reaching out and grasping Draco’s arm so that the boy couldn’t leave. Ron cleared his throat, his mind going slightly fuzzy as he was fully aware of the warmth of Draco’s skin, “You need to eat the damn sandwich.”

“You need to stop acting like your mother!” Draco snapped, wrenching his arm from Ron’s grasp, but turning back towards him anyways.

“My mother doesn’t swear!” Ron roared, standing so fast that his chair almost tumbled backwards. Eyes narrowed, he reached for the plate that Draco’s sandwich lay on, and after grabbing it forcefully he shoved it into Draco’s chest.

And all Draco could do was laugh.

“Stop it, Malfoy.” Ron was infuriated. But for some reason, the longer Draco kept laughing the more Ron could feel his nerves loosening up. The anger in his voice had subsided noticeably when he weakly demanded again; “Stop it.”

Draco grasped Ron’s wrist while still laughing and forced Ron to put the sandwich back on the table. Draco’s laughing subsided finally when Ron let go of the plate, albeit unwillingly, and they turned their heads to each other only to find that they were now standing pretty close together. Draco would have sworn that he could feel Ron’s breath on his cheek.

“No.” Draco forced another laugh as he felt himself slowly leaning towards Ron. What was he doing? He wasn’t thinking straight…this house was still too damn hot. “I’m not going to eat the bloody sandwich, Weaselbee.”

Draco mildly and uninterestedly noticed a confused look on Ron’s face before his eyes closed and turned his face up to reach Ron’s lips. His brain shut down immediately, he could only feel.

The kiss lasted for a long moment before Ron decided to kiss back. Their kiss was hot, moist, soft, and tantalizingly slow. It was something new, but they had no time to think about it. Their breath mingled as this kiss lazed on. Until finally it registered that there was stubble on the face that Draco’s hand was caressing.

They came to their senses at the same time; Ron stumbled back, only catching himself on the counter while Draco backed up until he was up against the door frame that leads into the hallway. Grey eyes stared right into brown ones, which stared back. Both chests were heaving, hearts pounding, minds not working.

“Wrong.” Ron finally got out. Draco nodded, steel-faced.

There was another long moment of intense staring. Neither moved from their place, and the sandwiches lay forgotten on their plates.

“I’m going to bed.” Ron cleared his throat before he said this, and Draco nodded again. Not taking his eyes off the lips of the boy he’d just kissed.

…the boy he’d just kissed.

Things were just wrong with that sentence. With that whole Idea. Both of the boys knew it.

And yet, when Ron had crossed the room and had tried to pass Draco(as it was the only way to get out of the kitchen), one look and their lips met again. It was Ron this time, one hand lightly touching the back of Draco’s arm, the other at the base of Draco’s neck.

The kisses were quicker, faster, harder this time as tongues teased each other. Draco moaned, and he hoped it was because his back was hurting since it was being pressed into the door frame, but he wasn’t quite sure.

Hands started roaming tentatively, until finally Draco pushed Ron away from him; “This is wrong.”

“You started it, git.” Ron’s arms had dropped to his sides. His eyes had a sort of glazed over look, and his breathing had quickened. He glared at Draco while sucking on his bottom lip and then stormed through the doorway and into the hall.

But the damage had been done, and there was no going back.

Author's Note:  ...Well, let's see how this goes. I've never written slash before and I want to prove to myself that I can write anything if I want. lol

Chapter 2: Confusion
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Beautiful Shame
By CornishPixie

Disclaimer: Not mine.

“I’m going out,” Hermione announced one morning exactly a week later, “And I won’t be back until I’ve found a job. Or at least have had an interview.”

The others all thought that was a good idea, and even though Harry and Ginny would have liked to live job-free for a while longer they realized that their vacation was over; it was time to face real life head on.

“Where should we start looking?” Ron asked, even though he knew that they wouldn’t be going for the same kinds of jobs anyways. Especially since Harry could probably get any job he fancied in the least, and Ron would probably only need something part-time.

“Oh—well,” Hermione blinked towards Ron, surprised a bit that he was actually quite willing to job search as well, “I thought –with the Chudley Cannon thing…

Her cheeks reddened almost immediately, but Ron shrugged it off quickly, “I need something in the meantime, don’t I? Could take months until they decide I’m actually good enough to be paid.”

The girl hastily apologized, and Ron shrugged it off—his way of forgiving someone. Draco chose that moment to intentionally slurp down a couple gulps of water, and then leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed to raise his eyebrows at the other four expectantly.

“I’ll stay with Malfoy, then,” Harry volunteered when he realized that was the cause of Hermione’s tentativeness and Draco’s slurping.

They had almost forgotten him.

“Oh right,” Ron chastised himself before waving a hand towards Harry, “No, no. You go with your Fiance, I’ll babysit the lug.”

This was mostly why Draco had moved in with them; they were the only ones willing to offer protection to him. All of the Death Eaters that were still roaming around were on the hunt for traitors like Draco, and there had already been one close call when he’d just gone out to pick up a couple groceries. Now they weren’t taking any chances: Draco wasn’t allowed out of the house. And to be safe they had promised that someone would always be at the house with him in case anything did happen.

“But what about job searching?” Ginny asked, her eyebrows narrowed in concern.

“I’ll just go tomorrow,” Ron said, shrugging his shoulders casually and stretching his legs out underneath the table.

“I’ll keep a lookout for jobs for you,” Hermione promised with a smile, and Harry and Ginny promised to do the same and then they were gone through the front door less than two minutes later.

Ron and Draco sat in the kitchen unmoving for five minutes, unaware that they were both thinking about the last time they had been alone in this room together. Finally caving under the stress of not knowing where he was allowed to rest his eyes, Draco pushed his plate from in front of him and crossed his arms on the table before burying his head in them.

Moments later he heard Ron’s chair scraping across the floor, and then the sound of clinking dishes as he picked up the dirty dishes off the table. Draco peeked out from the hiding spot in the crook of his elbow to find that Ron was now depositing the dishes into the kitchen sink and was turning on the tap water.

By the look of it, he was planning to wash the dishes without magic.

“It’s not your day for dishes,” Draco mumbled from somewhere in his arms, his eyebrows narrowing when Ron only made an indistinct noise, “Today’s my dish day.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ron said as he upended the soap bottle and squirted a generous amount of dish soap into the filling sink.

Sitting up, the confused boy proceeded to make this a much bigger deal than it was. Squinting towards the fridge, Draco made mention of what he was looking at, “But Hermione made up those schedules, and—“

Not a second later Ron had stomped over to the fridge and ripped the schedule off of it. Crumpling it, the boy tossed it towards the dustbin where it bounced off the rim and settled on the floor a foot away, “I said don’t worry about it.”

Draco’s eyes narrowed as he sat there and surveyed the back of Ron while the red-head stood there with his head lowered to earnestly scrub the dishes clean. His grey eyes finally wandered away from Ron, and with a sigh he reached for the only dirty plate left on the table before he got up from his spot. Grabbing the frying pan off the stove on the way, Draco deposited them with the other dirty dishes beside Ron before hesitating.

He didn’t know whether to stay or not, but when his hand absently reached for a drying towel he figured it was too late to go back. Walking to the other side of Ron, Draco reached for the first rinsed dish and set to drying it.

“Why did you do it?” Ron asked, chin to chest as he glowered towards the sink.

Draco glanced to the side before gesturing behind him, “You just forgot to bring those things over here, that’s all.”

Instantly Ron gave him a glare, and automatically he understood what the boy had actually been referring too. And all he could think was that it really couldn’t have been him who had initiated that kiss, could it have?

“It was nothing,” he mumbled grumpily, too confused and angry about it to try and make it seem like a logical action.

“Nothing?” Ron repeated. Loudly. “I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t realize that when you were bored at school you and Crabbe or you and Goyle would…just…”

As a rough dramatization Ron raised a glass in one hand and the wet rag in the other and smashed them together ungraciously.

It was Draco’s turn to scowl now, and Ron looked miserable about it.

“Don’t be a dunce, “Draco responded as he slammed the glass he had dried down onto the countertop.

“Careful with that!” Ron warned instantly.

“Stop pouting,” was Draco’s pathetic reply, and Ron ignored the fact that the boy’s tone had been threatening.

“Don’t look at my lips,” the redhead ordered defensively, turning his head away from the blond in the meantime. Draco had enough.

“Holy hell, Ron, forget about the damn kiss!” he roared, breaking whatever sort of taboo there had been on actually voicing what had happened between them.

Neither of them had expected Draco to actually say ‘Ron’ though. Even when they had become tolerant of each other, habit forced them to use their surnames. It had sounded…wrong.

“Weasley,” Draco hissed lowly for good measure. Ron spent a few long moments glaring at the plate in his hands before he shook his head slightly and set the china on the drip tray.

“I can’t,” was what he intensely whispered. Still scowling, the man’s face reddened embarrassingly, and finally he threw down the damp towel in his hands and turned carefully so that he wouldn’t meet Draco’s surprised eyes, “Finish your own damn dishes.”

He’d almost stomped all the way out of the room when he head Draco’s angry confession, “I can’t either.”

Clenching his teeth together as soon as the words escaped him, Draco leaned onto the counter and bowed his head. He shouldn’t have said anything. This whole ordeal could have ended there if he had kept his mouth shut; but instead Ron had frozen in his place and was glancing over his shoulder. After swaying on the spot for a minute, Ron lookwed straight ahead once more.

“Good to know,” and then Ron was out of the room.

Draco’s emotions were so messed up that he didn’t even think to remove his wand from his pocket to finish the work quickly. The Slytherin finished the dishes by hand and then retreated sulkily to his room on the third floor.

When the three job hunters marched back into the house, Ron was sitting is the same spot in the living room and Draco hadn’t moved from his room.

“You look busy,” Hermione was glowing happily as she set down her purse. Both Harry and Ginny chuckled appreciatively at the sarcasm—Ron was staring at the wall opposite him, his legs stretched out in front of him, one foot bouncing restlessly.

“Oh—Hey, there’s nothing to do!” Ron started defensively, and Ginny grinned as she handed Ron a newly acquired mop.

“That should fix your problem,” she nodded helpfully, but Ron looked confused even as he took the mop from his sister.

“The kitchen and hallway need to be mopped, apparently,” Harry explained, and then kicked off his shoes, “and we’re not supposed to be wearing outside shoes inside anymore.”

Pouting for the second time that day, Ron just peered at his bare feet and remained seated as his friends settled in.

“Well?” Hermione impatiently pressed, “aren’t you going to ask us about the job search?”

“That’s right,” he’d actually forgotten that was why they were out, but to try and play it off like he was waiting for them to bring it up, Ron raised his eyebrows, “Did you find anything good for me?”

Hermione closed her open mouth to give Ron a calculating scowl—to which he awarded a silly grin—and then pulled something from her purse. Making sure to hold it close to her chest so that Ron couldn’t peek at it, Hermione opened her mouth once more, “Well, you know how I’ve wanted to work at the ministry since Kingsley’s got it running the right way again…”

Ron nodded, taking the briefest of moments to silently thank Kingsley for accepting the position as Minister for Magic.

“I went and asked about those positions your Dad was talking about. They were very impressed with my resume, of course, and so I’m a Research Assistant in the Department of International Magical Cooperation. They have a hand in archeological digs, you know, and translating runes and things.” Her eyes were bright, face flushed in excitement. Ron congratulated her but eyed the brochure in her hands questioningly.

“Go on, Hermione,” Ginny prompted the girl, who immediately handed the coloured paper to Ron.

“Oxford?” He read, confused, “This is a muggle school.”

“And I’m going to study there for a term or two,” looking absolutely ecstatic about it, Hermione continued to explain while Harry and Ginny were amused by Ron’s mild disgust at the concept of more schooling, “I just need to learn the technicalities of Archeological digging and then they said I would be qualified enough to head up my own digging site.”

Eyebrows raised, Ron nodded and handed the brochure back to his friend, “That’s great, Hermione.”

Positively flouncing, Hermione took the brochure and headed up the stairs, no doubt on her way to study some runes or something of the like. Harry and Ginny having settled on the couch with Ron—who was still clutching the mop—were the next targets for his questions, “What about your jobs?”

“Just that department store down the street for me,” Ginny looked content about this thought, “I still need to finish my time at Hogwarts anyways, plus I get twenty percent off of my purchases: hence, the mop.”

“I was looking into the Wizengamot,” Harry spoke as soon as Ginny was finished, and shrugged, “but I would need to do more studying. So I put my name in on Level Two of the ministry; Magical Law Enforcement.”

“To be an Auror?” Ron was impressed, and had now gladly and completely forgot about the earlier episode with Draco.

But Harry shook his head, “There were a couple openings in Administration Services.”

Ginny’s eyes twinkled, but she stubbornly kept her face serious while Ron laughed, “Good luck sitting down for nine hours a day, Harry.”

The black-haired man gave a good-natured half-smile before stretching into a yawn and then peering at his watch.

“Hey, shouldn’t you be at the Pitch with the Canons?”

A tense pause filled with silence followed, during which Ron checked what time it was, and then he exploded out of his seat in an almost panic, roaring, “I’m late!” and dropping the mop onto the floor carelessly as he did so.

Flying up the stairs, he slipped back down them not even a minute later with his broom tucked under an arm while his hands were busy zipping up his Quidditch bag. Still barefoot, the boy was only able to yell ‘Bye!’ before hurtling to the back yard and apparating away with a reverberating crack!.

Not ten seconds later Harry and Ginny heard hasty stomping, and a narrow-eyed Draco appeared at the top of the staircase, “What was that?”

“Ron,” Ginny gestured towards the back of the house as if that would be enough of an explanation. Draco was unsatisfied, however, and Harry surveyed his hardening face as the boy drew a few steps closer to them.

“Is he alright.” It was demanded, not questioned, and Ginny’s surprised eyes turned to Harry.

“He apparated,” Harry offered clearly, and Draco visibly loosened even though an obvious scowl overtook his face.

“Probably splinched himself,” was what he grumbled meanly before a smooth change of subject occurred, “Hermione told me all about her job, and I’m sure she mentioned something about yours—does this mean I’ll have to find myself a new bodyguard for when everyone’s at work?”

The scowl was gone, and both Ginny and Harry were able to recognize the actual sincere congratulations that Draco was trying to voice through his sarcasm.

“You could learn how to defend yourself,” Ginny was sarcastic in return, and Draco shook his head.

“No on in this house thinks I can hold my own,” the blond sounded rather forlorn, and Ginny tried to look sympathetic while Harry gave a non-committal shrug.

“That’s because you can’t,” Hermione’s voice floated down from the upstairs hallways, but as soon as her brown eyes rested on Draco her smile faded, “Oh—I thought you were Ron.”

Suffice it to say that Hermione’s proclamation left Draco gulping speechlessly as if he were an underwater fish.

Chapter 3: Secrets
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Beautiful Shame
By CornishPixie

Disclaimer: Not Mine.

“I want to go outside.” Draco announced one lazy evening when everyone was lounging about the living room.

“You’re not a dog, Malfoy,” Ginny said with a grin as her and Harry tossed a rubber bouncy ball from one to the other from across the room, “You can let yourself out, you know.”

Crossing his arms and leaning in the doorway, the boy sneered good-naturedly towards the girl, “The back yard gets boring.”

Ginny smiled lazily while Harry snorted and Hermione’s eyes finally flickered up from her book. Ron was the only one who seemed confused, “There’s hardly any backyard here.”

“That’s exactly his point, Ron,” Hermione snapped not unkindly, and closed her book on her lap, “Well if you bring a bodyguard—“

She stopped at the annoyed look on Draco’s face and tried to correct herself, “—escort…”

But Draco still made a face, “I liked bodyguard better.”

“Anyways,” Hermione scowled at the blonde, “as long as someone’s with you I don’t see why you can’t go out.”

“Brilliant,” Draco seemed actually enthusiastic, and immediately trotted to his room and grabbed the muggle wallet from the top drawer of his dresser. Slipping his feet into leather sandals, the boy padded his way back down the stairs and froze in the doorway of the living room again to find his friends just as he’d left them. And now they were all pointedly avoiding his gaze. With an angry sigh, the man fell back into his earlier spot leaning against the doorway.

“It’s hot out,” Harry offered finally, almost whining as he did so.

“You know what,” Ginny caught the rubber ball and held onto it for a moment so that she could look at Draco, “We should all go out tonight. We can walk to that pub a few blocks over and have dinner.”

“Oh, I’ve heard they’ve got great chips,” Hermione looked up from her book once more, and Ron turned from where he was staring out the window with his eyes half-closed to agree with Hermione.

“And it won’t be so hot if we go in a couple of hours,” Ginny tossed the ball back to Harry, who made a silly face at her.

”But no one wants to go now?” Draco pushed himself from the doorframe, “No one fancies a walk? Maybe just a bit of a dawdle?”

“Goodness,” Hermione settled into her book again, but giving a half-grin as Draco started to sound a bit desperate, “Why don’t you take a jog to the end of the street? Ron can watch you from the window.”

Draco’s eyes involuntarily flickered towards the aforementioned redhead, and caught the boy’s brown eyes just in time to see them widen and jerk away. He should have scowled. He should have felt slightly violated that he had just caught the boy pretty much ogling him. But he instead gave a sort of self-satisfied sneer and listened as the redhead stuttered.

“I have better things to do than be volunteered to watch that oaf,” was what finally issued from his lips. Draco resignedly started kicking off his sandals while the others chuckled.

“Like staring out that window into nothingness?” Ginny prompted.

“I’ll have you know there’s someone fit just across the way. A girl, a fit girl,” Ron turned back towards his window and tried to gesture towards her, “Just there. She’s making dinner.”

“And what are we having?” Harry asked, eyebrows hidden by messy bangs.

“Stew, looks like,” Ron squinted.

“I’m not exactly sure going from doing nothing to being pervy is a step up, Ron,” Hermione’s eyes were the only things visible from behind her book, and Draco almost snorted at the way her one eyebrow was arched in mild disgust.

Jaw dropping in indignation, Ron tried to find something to say but couldn’t think straight throughout Draco’s howling laughter.

“Even if it is a bit pervy,” Harry tried coming to his friend’s rescue, “You can’t completely blame him. There’s been no one since that thing with that Ravenclaw girl before Christmas, right?”

“Right.” Ron answered immediately, turning in his seat once more to find himself staring at Draco’s steely face and having a hard time not becoming red, “No one.”

“Since before Christmas?!” Hermione leaned forward, mock horror on her face, “How do you survive at all?!” Dramatically widened eyes blinked back into unenthusiastic slits as she shared a look of understanding with Ginny, “Boys.”

“Men,” Harry corrected her.

“If there were any men here, Harry, I would have used that term,” Hermione teased.

“Draco?” Ginny asked, ever the observant one, “Are you alright?”

Narrowed eyebrows and a clenched jaw looked towards her and sighed, “Yeah.”

“Listen,” Harry caught the bouncy ball and held it for a second, “I would go for a walk right now if it weren’t so warm out, but I’ll cover your tab tonight. Fair enough?”

Finally flopping into an empty chair, the boy tried very hard not to roll his eyes, “Right, because I’m so worried about the money.”

“You can pay for my dinner, Harry, at least I’d appreciate it,” Ron tried sending a glare to Draco without actually looking at him. The final result was a look that made it seem like he was rather angry at the goblin-framed mirror hanging on the wall somewhere behind Draco.

“I would appreciate it!” the Slytherin defended himself weakly, “but seeing as I would probably be willing to pay a few galleons to go on a walk right now…”

“A few galleons?” Ron sat up, a bit hopeful.

“That was more a figure of speech,” Draco sighed once more, and Ron echoed the sigh before settling back down in his chair. A calm silence overcame the room, broken only by noises of the ball bouncing and frequent rustling pages as Hermione read her book. And when Ginny finally suggested that they get ready for dinner, Draco was the first one up and practically racing towards his room.

“Oh my,” Hermione was the last one down the stairs, and she had a hard time stepping into her shoes because of the way she was eying Draco, “You certainly clean up nice.”

He had on a pair of charcoal pants with a small silver pin striping detail and a dress shirt the same colour silver as the pin striping in his pants. A generous couple of buttons were undone at the collar, and because of the heat he’d rolled up the sleeves to his elbows. He smattered a bit of water in his hair in order to try and tame it, and because of the way he’d slicked it back there were now flyaway pieces curling a bit as they dried. He did not look at all like he was supposed to be in hiding.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Draco warned with his eyebrows raised, catching Ron giving him a more subdued version of Hermione’s look, “I didn’t dress up for you.”

“Hoping to find a lady friend at the pub tonight?” Ginny teased, opening the front door and leading the dinner party from the house.

“Not at all,” Draco settled his hands in his pockets so that he could saunter along coolly behind them and enjoy the fresh, free air, “I expect to have every single lady drooling at my feet by the time I get my food.”

“Months stuck inside and it still hasn’t done his ego any good,” Harry commented loudly to Ron, who snorted in return and refused to look at Draco.

Hermione came up behind them and issued a rather harsh smack to Harry’s shoulder, “Give the boy a break, he’s been stuck in that house for months.”

“It’s not like he was alone the whole time,” Harry argued weakly, carefully watching as Ginny and Draco continued teasing each other ahead of them.

“No, we are not going to perch nonchalantly by the bar,” Ginny was already shooting down Draco’s plan of action, and they were still a block away from the restaurant, “We’re going to sit in a booth like civilized people.”

Draco faked a huff as best he could, but it really wasn’t that convincing considering he was still smiling as if his favourite team had just won the Quidditch World Cup.

The pub turned out to be a wizard-run place whose owner had done his best to muggle-fy it. It was rather good, for a only a witch or wizard would notice the minute slip-ups; the juke-box in the corner wasn’t plugged in despite the sounds that were emitting from it, the light fixtures were lit with Filibusters’ own non-melting candles, and the last few booths in the pub were slightly stretched via expansion charms.

But the atmosphere was warm and chatty and their waitress was charming in her own homely right. Draco took advantage of the presence of the unknown female immediately.

“Hello,” He flashed a crooked grin at the girl, whose eyelashes fluttered as she momentarily forgot her practiced introduction.

“Hello, I’ll be serving you tonight. My name’s Elizabeth—“

“Elizabeth,” Draco cut in, testing, “Mmm. Gorgeous.”

The poor girl’s cheeks flamed red and her brown eyes tried to focus on the others at the table, “—here are our menus, I’ll just be back in a few minutes. Oh, and our chimney’s floo has just been renovated so if you wanted to take a look at that at all tonight…”

“Oh no, we’re fine,” Ginny grinned at the girl, “We’ve only come from blocks down, we’ll walk home.”

“Perfect,” Elizabeth smiled brightly and nodded in understanding.

“Since we’re now clear on that,” Draco tapped the top of the table with his forefinger, “can you bring us a bottle of your finest red wine, dear Elizabeth?”

The girl suppressed a giggle just barely, and nodded before twirling away.

‘Dear Elizabeth'," Ron immediately mocked, scowling across the table towards the blond boy, “ridiculous.”

“What was all that about the floo?” Harry had an arm draped around Ginny, the other opening his menu despite his confused face.

“They need to know if their customers are muggle or not, don’t they?” Hermione spoke, her head buried in her menu.

“Imagine all the funny looks muggles would give her for that,” Ginny chuckled, and Harry finally understood.

“You’re so thick,” Draco almost rolled his eyes towards Harry, while Ron was leaning his forearms heavily on the table and seemed to be intent on losing himself amongst all the other things that were going on in the room.

Ginny giggled and shared a look with Harry that made Draco’s lip curl, “Disgusting.”

The bottle of wine and five glasses appeared moments later, their orders given and their menus collected while Elizabeth tried her best to keep composed while Draco shamelessly did his best to make her blush. Hermione had to hide her eyes so she wouldn’t giggle, and Ron was trying to drown out the blond’s voice by messily pouring the wine and talking loudly about whatever song was playing at the moment.

“Could you please tone it down a little, Draco?” Hermione raised her eyebrows as soon Elizabeth had walked off again, “You’re making Ron jealous.”

“What?!” Ron, who had been taking a sip from his wine glass, sputtered so that he had to hastily wipe some of the red liquid off of his chin.

Draco had managed not to screech anything as had Ron, but still couldn’t help the reproachful look he geared towards the girl.

“Ron…” Ginny chastised, who was unfortunately perched beside her brother and now had a smattering of wine on her arm.

“Goodness, it’s okay, Ron,” Hermione shook her head with a small smile, “Elizabeth is rather cute.”

Relaxing instantly, Ron and Draco adopted a similar absently relieved expression and accidentally caught each other’s eye. Surprisingly, Ron spoke first, “Nah, you can have her. I’m into blonds.”

His lips curled into an arrogantly self-satisfied smirk, and Ron replied by downing the wine in his glass. Harry snorted even though he still wasn’t sure what was going on, and Ginny made some sort of comment about how nice it was to be out like this.

“Yeah, this is great,” Ron’s sarcasm was met with frowns.

“You’re such a faker,” Draco spoke with accusing intensity, his frown emphasized by a disapproving shake of his head, “You should mean the things you say and do, but you clearly don’t.”

Ron froze, seething silently as he waited for Draco to elaborate. Almost afraid that this was being turned back around into a disguised argument about the ‘incident’, the redhead avoided the others’ curious looks and challenged Draco with a glare to go on.

‘At least I’d appreciate it.’ “ The blond did his best imitation of Ron, and then sneered, “You don’t appreciate anything, faker.”

“I appreciate loads of things,” Ron snarled, grumpily hunched over as he refilled his wine glass and refused to look at Malfoy.

“You don’t even appreciate the loads of laundry that Hermione does for you,” Draco was still sneering in disgust. He didn’t notice when Hermione’s eyes snapped open and Ginny and Harry sent her an incredulous look.

“You do his laundry?” Ginny look appalled as she asked this, and Hermione flushed as her mouth opened and shut soundlessly.

“Of course she doesn’t,” Ron hissed, “The house elves take care of it.”

There was a drag of awkward silence suspended about the table with that proclamation, until Harry finally broke it, “This isn’t Hogwarts, mate. And Kreacher can’t even keep his own cloths clean, let alone all of ours.”

“You do his laundry?” Ginny repeated, still appalled.

“We do all of our laundry together,” Hermione was looking straight at Draco with visibly wounded eyes, as if she couldn’t understand why he’d blurted her secret, “We gossip like old women.”

“You never told me he thought the house elves did his laundry,” Draco was annoyed now, having proved that Ron was actually rather dense instead of his original ‘faker’ accusation.

“She does his laundry?” Ginny finally geared her question to Harry, who promptly answered with an amused, “That’s what it looks like, darling.”

Ron was sitting there with his mouth agape, staring somewhere between Draco and Hermione and flushing ridiculously as he did so, “Well, thank you for doing my laundry, Hermione. Uhm…I can do it now though.”

Draco’s jaw remained shut tight while Hermione continued to stare at him even though she was now timidly replying to Ron, “No problem, Ronald. My pleasure.”

“That thanks is real enough, you should know,” Ron commented before downing his glass of wine once more and then glaring angrily at the blond across from him, “I can’t fake things. If I could then you’d think I was having a jolly good time sitting here playing entourage-bodyguard to your slimy self. But I’m not, and I apologize to the rest of you for ruining all of this but I just want it to be clear that I mean everything I do. Maybe not everything I say—but when I do something, I mean it.”

There was a two beat pause and then Elizabeth whirled to their table, a large plate in each hand. Ginny immediately claimed the dinners and Draco mumbled something about the washroom before slipping out of the booth and completely missing Elizabeth’s sidelong glance and slight hurt expression when he hardly even acknowledged her. Harry and Ginny munched on the first bites of their meals tentatively as Hermione sat in her spot looking rather struck. Ron refilled his wine glass once more, but only raised it halfway to his lips once before he put it down with a sigh.

“I need some fresh air,” he said before stumbling from the booth and cutting off Elizabeth on her way back to the table with the other three meals balanced carefully in her arms. And even though the outside air was rich with warm comforting moisture and lit with the pale light of dusk, Ron’s stomach sunk when he took in his surroundings.

Draco stood on the other side of a large potted plant, hands in his pockets and a cigarette held lazily between his lips.

“You smoke,” Ron offered blandly. For some reason it really didn’t seem all that out of character for the Slytherin, even though he hadn’t any idea that the boy liked to smoke.

“And you,” Draco paused for a moment to grasp the cigarette with his forefinger and his thumb so that he could articulate his words better, “are stalking me.”

“You said you were going to the loo,” Ron reprimanded him indirectly, and Draco took another drag of the cigarette before replying.

“I didn’t want an escort standing out here questioning me while I had a smoke,” he glared pointedly at the redhead, holding the look for a couple long moments before he turned his head, “I never said I wasn’t a faker.”

Ron shoved both hands in his pockets and rooted his feet to the spot to try and dispel his urge to walk any closer to the other boy, whose words were now making his a bit suspicious, “So…you don’t mean what you do? Or say?”

“Unfortunately—“ Draco stopped for one last long drag and then tossed the butt of the cigarette to the cement and ground it to the floor with his foot, “I meant absolutely everything that night. I can’t fake…that.”

He turned towards Ron, a slight look of stubbornness causing his forehead to crease. The meaning behind his words caused Ron to rock forward, and he ended up having to take a step forward so he wouldn’t fall over. And another one. And another. At least, that’s what it felt like.

Draco’s hands were fisted in his pockets, his eyes stubbornly concentrating on the bush he had been hiding behind as he peripherally watched Ron move towards him. He should have moved, of course, but he didn’t. Ron was trying to convince himself that he wasn’t moving forward of his own accord, but the closer he got to Draco the more he realized that he wanted to be even nearer to him.

“Hermione was right,” the redhead admitted lowly, “you were making me jealous.”

Draco looked up to meet Ron’s eyes then, a self-satisfied smirk curling its way onto his face at what Ron said and the way the Weasley boy was teetering where he stood. Boldly straightening himself, the Slytherin took a half step towards the Gryffindor in challenge, “What’s stopping you?”

Huffing in frustration, Ron brought a hand up to ruffle his hair as he turned towards the pub, “All those stupid looks you were giving Elizabeth were just—“

“You’re such a dolt,” Draco cut in, and Ron was caught off guard when the Slytherin grasped a fistful of his shirt at the collar and pulled the boy towards him. Their lips met rather fiercely, and they broke apart for a moment as they stumbled backwards. Ron instinctively snaked an arm around Draco’s waist to keep him from falling, and Draco still gripped Ron’s shirt in one hand and his upper arm with his other. Ron’s free hand caught the wall they had backed into, and Draco made a disgruntled noise despite the fact that Ron had tried to lessen the impact.

“You alright?” Ron whispered hoarsely, their noses still touching.

“Shut—“ but Draco couldn’t finish because Ron’s firm lips had caught his own again. His tongue ran teasingly across Draco’s upper lip and the Slytherin replied by catching the other boy’s bottom lip between his teeth. Someone moaned, or maybe it was both of them, but in any case it caused their parted lips to find each other’s once more.

A deliberate cough finally interrupted them, and Draco’s small shove to Ron’s chest caused the redhead to back up a step finally and dazedly turn. The young couple that had been walking by had peculiar looks on their faces, and Ron tried to look nonchalant as brought a hand to wipe at his slightly swollen lips before trying a bit of a smile and awkward wave.

The man ushered the woman into the pub, and Ron turned back to Draco to find him comfortably composed and leaning against the brick wall with a smirk, “Your face is purple.”

“I can’t—you just…” Ron was trying to catch his breath and understand his feelings at the same time, and neither of those things were willing to be under his control, “You’re alright with this?”

“You’re not?” Draco challenged, sudden anger hardening his face.

“It’s not exactly normal,” Ron rushed, his eyebrows narrowing to imitate Draco.

“After all that’s happened, you’re worrying about being normal?” Draco’s eyebrows rose a bit in amusement, and Ron only scowled all the more.

“Well you don’t go and snog someone when you’ve already told them that you should forget having ever snogged them before!” Ron raged as quietly as he could.

“We both admitted that neither of us could forget it,” Draco argued smoothly, “and I knew what I wanted, so I just waited for you.”

Ron gaped, his face furiously turning purple once more as he tried to think of how he could possibly respond to that.

“You should be thanking me,” Draco instructed helpfully, “you’re horrible at figuring out feelings. Hence my theatrics in there—“ Draco gestured to the pub, and then pushed off from the wall and slowly ambled past Ron, “—which proved rather astoundingly that…you want me.”

Sputtering, Ron was still gaping as the blond opened the door to the pub and carelessly held it open for the redhead, “Coming, Wealsey?”

“You mean…” Ron took a couple of steps towards the door, “you already knew that you wanted me?”

One eyebrow arched as Draco gave a suggestive grin, and then explained Ron’s unanswered question, “I didn’t say anything. Thought you might punch me or something.”

In one last bout of breathless, heart-fluttering humiliation, Ron wound up and punched Draco so hard in the shoulder that the boy flung back and hit the door with a thud before letting go of the handle in order to cradle the injury with a hiss.

“What the hell, Ron,” Draco raged.

Finally satisfied at the situation, Ron winked at the scowling blond boy and ushered him into the pub, “You were right, git.”