Just Leave Me Out Of It
By Olympe Maxime (aka Wendelin the Weird on SQ)
"It's from me mam!" Seamus said excitedly, grabbing the owl that had swooped into his butter dish. "She's sent me my copy of Fantastic Beasts."
Dean thumped him on the back. "Good. Now you can stop borrowing mine." Not that Dean minded sharing with his friend, but Seamus did tend to doodle the Kenmare Kestrals leprechauns and harps on any surface he could find. Dean wouldn't even have minded that - he himself doodled all over his books - but Seamus's drawings were bad. Worse than bad. His harps looked like evil, toothy grins, and his leprechauns... Dean shuddered. He liked Seamus very much, but Dean sincerely believed that people like Seamus ought not to be allowed to buy sketching quills, simply as a matter of principle.
Beside him, Seamus was ripping his package open haphazardly. "I'm going to write and tell her all about Harry yesterday." Seamus grinned. "Me mam's barking that way. It'll tickle her silly to know all about it before the Daily Prophet, even."
This startled Dean. "You think the Daily Prophet is going to be interested in Harry?"
Seamus rolled his eyes at Dean, and started buttering himself a piece of toast. "Well it's Harry, isn't it?" he said, brandishing his knife like a baton. "An' even if it weren't, mate, it's the Triwizard Tournament. You heard Dumbledore. It hasn't been played for centuries." He paused and stuffed the whole piece of toast into his mouth. "Vish ish 'uge."
Dean nodded. "Cool, isn't it, that Harry got picked?"
Seamus chewed thoughtfully. "Wonder how he did it, though. You know? Getting past that age line n'all?"
A sulky, bitter voice said from behind Dean, "Yeah, well, he's not telling, is he?"
Dean looked around to find a miserable looking Ron Weasley dropping into the seat beside his. Dean stared.
"What?" Ron said, looking from Dean to Seamus and back again. "Can't I sit here?"
Seamus opened his mouth to ask Ron something, a quizzical expression on his face, but Dean kicked him under the table and said quickly, "'Course, mate. Want some toast?"
Ron took the toast, looking slightly grateful through his sulky gloom. Dean decided he'd been right to stop Seamus from asking Ron whatever he'd been about to ask. Something was apparently wrong between the golden duo of Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.
Wrong was the understatement of the year for whatever was the matter with Ron and Harry. They didn't seem to be speaking to each other at all. Dean watched them studiously ignore one another during lessons and meals, watched Hermione Granger run from one to the other obviously trying to make peace, her face screwed up in determination but getting progressively sadder.
Ron scowled every time Dean or Seamus accidentally mentioned Harry - and by now, the two of them had become quite expert at avoiding the subject. It was quite a feat, considering how much everyone was talking about Harry these days. For their part, though, Seamus and Dean both let Ron hang around them at meals and lessons without comment. If Seamus was curious about the fight between Ron and Harry, he was doing an admirable job of hiding it; and Dean kept his own mouth shut just to be sure he wouldn't get dragged into the mess.
He should have known the peace was too good to last.
On Friday, just before double Potions, Malfoy and his Slytherin friends walked into the corridor outside Snape's dungeon sporting badges that said "Potter Stinks". One look at the badges, and Ron turned so green that Dean was sure he was going to be sick.
"Are you all right mate?" Seamus whispered to Ron. Dean could have kicked him. Didn't Seamus realise it was best if they didn't get dragged into this fight business? Did he want to get involved?
Just as Dean had feared, Ron scowled, his ears turning an ugly shade of red. Fists jammed at his sides, he looked as if he didn't quite know who he wanted to hit first - Malfoy or Harry. Before he could answer Seamus, though, Hermione Granger and Harry came walking down the corridor. It took them a moment to spot the badges, and figure out what they said.
Malfoy, sniggering like he always did, shouted, "Like them, Potter?" pointing at his badge, and showing Harry how it worked. The Slytherins howled, and the dungeons echoed with their laughter.
Harry's face had turned brick red with suppressed rage, but it was Granger who reacted first. "Oh, very funny," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Really witty."
Ron stood straighter up against the wall, fists clenching tighter, his whole body tense. Dean himself was edging away from the Slytherins and Harry, wanting to avoid the duel that was sure to break out. Harry looked as if he was barely managing to stop himself from launching bodily into Malfoy.
Malfoy, however, dense as he was, didn't see the warning signs. "Want one, Granger?" he asked, holding a badge up to her. "I've got loads. But don't touch my hand, now. I've just washed it, you see; don't want a Mudblood sliming it up."
Ron jerked violently forward at this, but Dean and Seamus held on to him with all their might, pulling him back with them by the elbows. It would be stupid to get into a fight with Malfoy when Snape was sure to turn up so soon.
Harry, however, without the benefit of friends to restrain him, had attacked Malfoy with a spell - and Malfoy did the same to Harry at exactly the same moment. Sparks of light shot out of their wands, hit each other, and then bounced off in different directions. Several people screamed and ducked - but they needn't have bothered. One of Malfoy's thick mates - Dean could never tell which was which - and Hermione Granger got hit with the spells. Boils sprouted all over the heavy Slytherin's face, and Granger was staggering back, clutching her mouth with her hands. Ron shook violently free of Dean and Seamus, and rushed forward to see what was the matter with her.
And then, Snape arrived.
Dean could have groaned aloud as Snape handled the situation in his usual, ridiculously unfair way... it was bound to make Harry and Ron angry. And sure enough, within one minute of Snape's arrival, Harry and Ron were shouting strings of blue obscenities at the top of their voices, their shocking words echoing round and round the dungeon walls as Hermione Granger ran tearfully away towards the hospital wing, her magically enlarged teeth poking out from under the hands she was holding over her mouth.
Dean noticed some students slipping into the dungeon fearfully, eager to get as far away as possible from the volatile situation in the corridors. He tugged on Seamus's elbow, and both of them slipped in unnoticed along with the other students.
When Harry and Ron came into the classroom with Snape, both were breathing hard from their outburst, and both's nails were digging into their palms. For a minute, Dean thought that maybe some good had come of this after all, that Harry and Ron had made up and stopping fighting with each other, but then Ron dropped into the seat next to Seamus instead of sitting with Harry. Harry scowled harder than ever.
As the lesson wore on, Ron, who was sharing Dean's Potions textbook, drew the Chudley Cannons logo over and over again in any blank space that he could find, his quill scratching the parchment hard enough to tear it. Another textbook despoiled by below-par doodles - though Ron wasn't quite as bad as Seamus in this respect. Still, Dean wished his friends would stop choosing his books to doodle on... He sighed. Quite apart from the headache all this tension was giving him, Ron was so tall that whenever he sat with Dean and Seamus, he blocked Dean's view of Parvati Patil.
Ron was in a simmering bad mood that day when they came back to the common room, and Dean had had enough experience with that from his brothers and sisters to know that Ron ought to be left quite alone. Occasionally, Ron craned his neck, probably looking for Hermione Granger to appear, but then he went back to simmering and chuntering under his breath about something Dean couldn't quite catch... although he thought he heard the words "bloody" and "Snape" in succession. Seamus, too, seemed to be on edge for some reason, fidgeting with his quill the way he always did when he had something on his mind. Dean hoped it wasn't the big Harry-Ron estrangement...
His hopes were dashed the very moment they formed. Seamus, apparently unable to take it any longer, burst out with his question: "Hey Ron, what did you and Harry fight about, eh, mate?"
Ron's expression darkened. "Git," he mumbled through clenched teeth, "Triwizard champion..."
And abruptly, he trailed off, his ears as red as ripe tomatoes.
"Are you mad he didn't let you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, too?" asked Seamus shrewdly.
Dean buried his face in his hands, and wished he could leave - but then Seamus would probably notice and ask him why, and he'd get dragged into it all, too.
Ron's ears turned a brighter shade of vermillion, the colour beginning to creep down his neck and up his cheeks, too. "It's just..." He hesitated, and burst out, "He could've told me, couldn’t he? I'm his best mate!"
Seamus nodded eagerly. "We were wondering a little, too, the other day, weren't we, Dean?" Dean shrank back furthur into his couch, wishing he could disappear. But Seamus didn't seem to notice. "We were wondering a little, y'know, he might've told us, we share the same dormitory."
"Hey," said Ron, suddenly a little defensive. "I'm just... I'm his best mate, all right? It's a stupid fight, that's all. I mean, all he has to do is stop being such a git and .."
Seamus simply couldn't read the signs. "That's what I'm saying, mate, I agree with you - I think you're right! You're his best mate, he should've told you!"
"Don't you bloody say that!" Ron said, jumping up. "What are you, jealous of Harry for being Champion?"
"What'd'you mean? Are you barking?" said Seamus, also standing up to face Ron. "I'm just saying I'm on your side, what're you flying off the handle for?!"
"You know what, you can go to hell! You go wear one of those "Potter Stinks" badges - that's what you want, isn't it?" And grabbing one of the badges that had been left lying on a nearby table by the Creeveys, he threw it at Seamus and stormed off.
So Ron stopped eating meals and sitting at lessons with Dean and Seamus, apparently including them, too, in his freeze-out campaign. Dean noticed him hanging around with his brothers and Lee Jordan in Hogsmeade the next weekend, but otherwise he didn't give much thought to Ron. There were lessons on his mind, and the excitement of the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. Seamus had heard from his mum that for the first task, the Champions would all have to wrestle one another the muggle way, no magic allowed. They spent many happy hours theorising how long it would take for Krum to finish the other champions off. No, they didn't think very much about Ron Weasley's fight with Harry Potter at all.
And Dean was happy to let it stay that way.