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31 May 2006 @ 08:56 pm
Part Three  


Rolling into Ron’s abandoned warm space woke Harry the next morning. He decided it was the nicest awakening he’d ever experienced. It also made him instantly hard. He pressed his nose into the pillow that smelled faintly of Ron’s lemon aftershave as his hands slipped into his boxers. It didn’t take long. Eyes still gummed shut, he wiped one hand on his boxers before reaching for his wand and using it to clean up the rest.

The first time he’d wanked off to the thought of Ron, he hadn’t been able to look him in the eye for a full day. He was sure his dirty secret was scored on his eyeballs all ready for Ron to detect, like personalised invisible ink. When night fell and Ron still hadn’t bawled him out, or taken him aside and explained that he could no longer hang around with a boy who thought about him that way, Harry finally felt able to relax. Only for it to happen all over again the next day.

To credit Harry -- or perhaps Ron’s noted emotional denseness -- Ron never noticed anything. After a while Harry was better able to separate fantasy Ron from real Ron, and for the sake of an easy life to decide that they weren’t related, even distantly.

He went downstairs to search out Ron with a clear conscience, even though rubbing himself into the sheets where Ron had just lain brought fantasy Ron and real Ron into rather uncomfortable alignment.

Harry found Ron in the kitchen, which for the second time in as many months actually looked used. A number of bowls filled with things Harry couldn’t begin to name were being mixed, sifted and beaten magically with a variety of appliances that Harry hadn’t even known he possessed.

“What are you doing, opening a restaurant?” said Harry through a yawn. In a semblance of politeness, he covered his mouth with one hand. His fingers smelt of semen. One realisation lead to another: a heightened awareness of how low his tracksuit bottoms had slipped around his hips. He tugged them up as Ron turned to face him, his cheeks flushed and splattered with flour.

“I don’t get much of a chance to cook,” he said by way of reply. Harry tried to figure out if this meant ‘yes’ or ‘no’. “When I’m at home Mum does it, when I’m working I rarely have time …” He flashed that grin again. Harry’s stomach swooped. “I’m indulging myself! D’you fancy French toast, normal toast, pancakes or bacon?”

“Do I have to choose?” asked Harry. He hoisted himself up on to the tiny part of the counter that was free and swung his legs.

“Nope. In fact, you’d better not, or this lot’ll never get eaten.” Ron looked around with mild dismay. “I got a bit carried away.”

“Never mind,” said Harry, Summoning some toast with a wordless command. “Oh, shit! Sky!”

“I already gave her a bottle. She’s sleeping again.” Ron leapt forward to move some pans around Harry’s state-of-the-art oven, entirely missing out on Harry’s open mouth, mid-mastication gape of surprise.

Harry gathered enough wits to swallow and choked, “You gave her a bottle?”

“Sure thing.” Sensing doubt in Harry’s enquiry, Ron added, “I’ve done it hundreds of times. Sometimes the mother is tired, or just not there, or is Fleur … don’t worry.” He tipped half a gallon of cream over some pancakes and pushed them into Harry’s lax hands. “I didn’t poison her. Or you either. Eat up.”

Obediently, Harry stuck a fork into his pancakes. One mouthful assured him that there were as light and fluffy as treacle-drenched clouds. Ron had inherited his mother’s talent for cooking.

Ron rattled a drawer. “I’ve been meaning to ask you -- you’ve got six place settings of forks, knives and teaspoons, but only one spoon. Why is that?”

Harry opened his mouth to explain, and would have done so with his usual economy had it not been for one spanner in the works -- Ron’s hand. In the window of time between finishing his question and Harry beginning to answer it, Ron had spun around again and began groping around on the counter for something. Harry hadn’t even shaped a word when Ron’s knuckles brushed against the side of his leg. All unconscious of the effect he was having on Harry’s heart rate and adrenaline secretion, Ron leaned in and nudged firmly against Harry in his search -- his shoulder against Harry’s, his hip touching Harry’s knee, and his hand --

“Gotta piss,” mumbled Harry, downing tools and jumping off the counter.

“Have a shower while you’re there!” Ron called after him. “We need to get going soon.”

Harry thought a shower was a tremendous idea. It meant far less cleaning up afterwards.

::
::

Ron staunchly refused to go out with Harry looking, in his words, ‘like a tramp whose only qualifications are the odour and appearance of a dead rat.’ He made Harry return to the shower with the shampoo Ron had brought with him, against all Harry’s protestations that he was allowing his hair’s natural oils to come through. The only thing he found remotely presentable in Harry’s scanty wardrobe were a pair of jeans that Harry had owned since he was sixteen and a button-down shirt that was not much younger. Both of them were far tighter than Harry thought clothes should be, but he thought he could put up with the feeling of a shrink-wrapped crotch far better than having Ron’s impartial gaze constantly appraise him.

Ron was far more approving of Sky’s garments and did not attempt to interfere in Harry’s choice of the day’s attire. He only mumbled something that sounded a lot like ‘Wish you’d pay that much attention to yourself,' which was easy to ignore.

Ron’s organisational help was invaluable. It was he who pointed out the need for a bag containing nappies, bottles, and a change of clothes for Sky. He was astonished to discover that the only device Harry owned for carrying her about was his own two arms.

“First on the shopping list: a pram,” was Ron’s response to that.

“When did you get so responsible?” demanded Harry, nettled.

“A year and three months ago. You weren’t there to see it.” That alone called for fisticuffs at dawn, but Ron disarmed Harry with nothing more than a hint of his knee-weakening smile. This left Harry feeling angrier than ever, and also wretchedly confused -- not the best state of mind in which to go on a spending spree.

Their first port of call was Tesco. There was something strangely companionable about pushing a trolley down the aisles with Ron, with Sky in a baby seat gurgling her approval of Harry’s food choices. Ron, on the other hand, was not so free with his praise.

“Haven’t you heard of the food groups, Harry?” he asked, as Harry threw the fifth packet of Jammy Dodgers into the trolley. “In case you haven’t, they don’t consist of beer, biscuits and own-brand chocolate bars.”

“If you want something else to eat, put it in.” Harry shrugged. “I got a Club Card when I first moved here. I’ll probably get a discount if I actually buy some fruit.”

After a while, Ron forgot his horror at Harry’s nutritional nonchalance and became absorbed in fingering things like plastic vegetable bags and cat food.

“Look at this!” he whispered at one point, brandishing a packaged Oral B toothbrush dangerously near to Harry’s eyeball. “The effort Muggles go to for the simplest things is astounding!”

“Yeah,” said Harry rather mindlessly. He’d got a blast of Ron’s warm, pepperminty breath right in his ear and it was discomposing him. A lot. “But, like, they don’t have magic.”

“I know. You pity them really.” Ron returned the toothbrush to its brothers and smiled That Grin at a blue-rinsed dame studying the grey-cover hair-dyes. Harry looked back over his shoulder when they had moved on; the lady had popped Ron’s toothbrush into her trolley with a furtive air, as if she expected snipers to appear over the stacks of toilet roll and blast away the toiletries section.

Ron was so excited by the time they reached the frozen section that he didn’t even comment as Harry stuffed half a dozen pizzas into his labouring trolley. Even Sky had been drafted in to carry groceries, Harry tucking in a few yoghurts into her blanket to save space. He was affronted to see that she greeted them with far more enthusiasm than she’d shown for the vast majority of expensive toys he’d presented to her. By the time she’d got her hands around them to coo at them like long-lost friends, Harry was distracted by Ron’s raptures over the selection of Ben and Jerry’s.

“I don’t think even Mum could magic up ice cream to beat this!” Ron laughed. No one nearby seemed shocked by his choice of words, but Harry recalled from his very brief interaction with cookery books that this could be taken in the light of a baking expression. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the blue-rinsed lady creeping up on them. Before she could reach them, Harry grabbed a tub of every flavour and toppled them precariously into the trolley.

“I’m paying for some of this,” insisted Ron. Harry, struck dumb by the combination of peppermint breath and lemon aftershave, both of which were wafting his way, shook his head vigorously.

“Having a party, are we?” asked the girl at the till.

“Something like that,” mumbled Harry. He unpacked as fast as his hands would let him, well aware that the blue-rinsed lady was behind them in the queue and shooting smouldering looks in Ron’s direction.

When they finally broke out of the shop, Harry was left with a hundred and fifty tokens for a bedside cabinet that he didn’t want and wasn’t collecting for even if he had. He managed to whisk Ron away from his octogenarian admirer by the skin of his newly cleaned teeth, but it was a close run thing. If she’d been fifty years younger she would have caught up with them.

“Do you usually react so badly to people’s admiration?” Ron wanted to know as soon as they were clear.

“What do you mean?” asked Harry. Even if Ron had been oblivious to the blue-rinsed lady’s appreciation of him, Harry hadn’t been. There was certainly no way that her sights had been set on Harry, except in terms of getting him out of the way so she’d have a clear run at Ron.

“The girl at the check-out!” Ron snorted with laughter. “Aptly named, I feel. She wanted to run her hands over more than your -- well, my -- bananas, from what I could tell.”

“Oh, Ron,” said Harry, condensed disgust dripping from every syllable. “She did not.”

“What’s wrong?” Ron bumped shoulders with him. “Don’t tell me you’ve turned into a squeamish prude in your old age.”

“She was not checking me out.” Harry wanted to make his stand clear before Ron touched him any more and made his brain leak out of his ears, where it would be of no use to anyone.

“So she only charged you for half your pizzas and gave you twice as many tokens as she was supposed to out of the kindness of her heart, did she?”

“Well -- I mean --” Annoyed, Harry pulled the tokens out of his jeans pocket and inspected them. As Ron had said, they were given for each twenty pounds spent; Harry had spent nowhere near that much. He tossed the tokens into a bag. “Why’d she think giving me those would make me fancy her? That’s just stupid.”

“Totally,” Ron agreed easily. “Then again, maybe she was shy. Maybe this was the only way she could let you know she liked you.”

“On the basis of five minutes’ acquaintance? I could have been a mass murderer for all she knew!” There was a strained silence. “Yeah, exactly, so she was daft to even think about it.”

Ron picked up Sky and chucked her under the chin. She looked sad to see the yoghurts go. “What are we doing with these groceries? We can’t lug them around with us.”

This was far more easily solved than the till-girl dilemma. Harry pushed the trolley to a secluded part of the car park and simply Re-Located the groceries to his flat. It was a handy spell that Hermione had discovered for use in the field during the war.

Struck, Harry said, “How’s Hermione doing?”

“She’s run off with a coven of hippies to have their love children and worship the moon,” said Ron smoothly. At Harry’s aghast face, he added, “Not. Don’t be so gullible. And don’t ask me how she’s doing -- ask her.”

Harry detected more than Ron’s generalised bitterness over his defection in there. He pressed, “Seriously. Is she still going out with Anthony Goldstein? Is she happy?”

“She’s working in the Department of Mysteries, which has the biggest magical library in Britain. Of course she’s happy. She’s fucking ecstatic.”

“Ron?” Harry raised a cautious hand to Ron’s shoulder. He didn’t touch him; there was a very clear feeling of raised hackles that put him off. After a moment, Ron turned back to him with a sunny smile that was as genuine as a weather report from a compulsive liar.

“This kid is heavy,” said Ron. He tickled Sky’s stomach through her felt jumpsuit. “Let’s go buy her a broomstick.”

::
::

A week ago it would have been completely infeasible, not to mention a fire hazard, for Harry to have been toasting marshmallows in his own fireplace. The truth of the matter was that Harry hadn't even known the living room boasted a fireplace. He'd just assumed a large chunk of the wall had swelled from marauding damp.

Then again, a week ago Ron Weasley was not in residence. Ron Weasley who turned out to have something of a penchant for housekeeping. Now a small fire blazed merrily in the hearth, which when exposed turned out to have tiled insets of winsome women with bouquets of flowers peeping out of them. Harry thought they were nothing short of horrific. Ron had amused himself by animating them, so that they now simpered at him every time he leaned forward to stoke the coals. It was only a mercy that he hadn't charmed them to speak as well, in Harry's opinion.

The rest of Ron's home improvements were far more amenable to Harry's tastes. A few simple colour charms had started him off while Harry was in the toilet, ostensibly vacating the results of a huge slap-up lunch in a local hostelry. Harry wouldn't have been in the slightest surprised if he had contracted food poisoning, given the vast amounts of green-tinged salad cream swirled over everything, but in fact he had other matters in hand. His erection, for one. Spending all day in close proximity to this new, mature, flirty Ron, who used his grin like a ground-to-air missile and whose denim-clad legs were impossibly long, had blurred the lines between Fantasy and Real Ron -- possibly forever. It was imperative that he remain in the dark about Harry's confusion until his visit terminated, at which point Harry could resume his old life with relief and not a little regret.

He'd returned to find that the living room had blossomed into a cheery yellow salon, complete with a brown velvet carpet and a reupholstered sofa in yellow and brown candy stripes. It gave Harry the overall impression of living inside a bee, but it was nice nonetheless. Ron had installed Sky in her new bouncy chair, surrounded by a bevy of stuffed animals. She looked like the matriarch of a pastel menagerie; the role suited her.

When Harry claimed that he was still full from lunch, Ron didn't press the issue. Instead, with the very legitimate air of a conjurer, he produced a huge bag of pink and white marshmallows and a long toasting fork. Harry hadn't noticed him buying them. Then again, after the third shop he hadn't noticed much besides how Ron's arse moved as he walked. This was a terrible thing to think about a friend, even though his attention was wholly approving. Harry now addressed all his comments to Ron's top shirt buttons as being the least provocative items of his ensemble -- although it was amazing what Harry's mind could conjure even with so little stimulus.

They sat in companionable silence, taking turns with the toasting fork. Or at least Harry presumed it was companionable. They weren't arguing outright, or having a coldness, but Harry's mind was busily sewing all the glimpses of Ron -- the edge of his knee, a bare toe, the firelight on his hair -- into a huge patchwork quilt of porn.

On cue, Ron said, "Knut for your thoughts."

Harry stuffed a hot marshmallow into his mouth. It collapsed quietly all over his fingers, sticking them together more effectively than Crazy Glu. "Worf at leas' a Galleon," he glooped.

"Okay then," said Ron. He leaned back, dragging Harry's unwilling gaze with him. His checked shirt rode up a little to reveal a strip of freckled belly. "Let's play Truth. I ask you one question, you ask me one, and we answer truthfully."

Harry was a little saddened that they needed to resort to such measures just to keep the conversation flowing, but he was also relieved. As a consummate liar, he was sure he could keep from telling Ron anything Harry didn't want to become common knowledge -- particularly anything involving his tongue and Ron's bellybutton.

"Okay," said Harry. After considerable effort, he managed to swallow the marshmallow; it had been harbouring ambitions of remaining lodged in his upper oesophageal sphincter forever. "You start."

"Mmm." Ron inclined his head towards the fire's heat, although the room was anything but cold. Even Sky had drifted off, cuddled deep into her blanket. The white column of Ron's throat was gilded in gold. He looked like a warrior from a medieval engraving, which was why Harry was comforted to discover shaving spots marching down the underside of Ron's jaw. "How many people have you slept with?"

"Ron!" Too late, Harry realised his shock had been Ron's purpose in asking the question. He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat at Harry's discomfiture.

"Well, that's the kind of thing Seamus and Dean talk about all the time with me," said Ron. "If you'd been around ..."

"What about Neville?" Harry jumped on the chance to divert attention from himself.

Ron shook his head, his grin stretching to his ears. "Neville's a bit ... reserved. Even if he were having his end away, he's far too much of a gentleman to divulge the dirty details."

"And I'm not, is that what you're saying?"

"Of course you're not," said Ron amicably. "Did you, or did you not, describe your first kiss as 'wet'? That's not the phraseology of a gentleman."

"That was a long time ago!"

"Agreed. So you have what, seven or eight years to fill me in on? Except about my sister." Ron's ears flushed at this codicil. "I can't describe the way I don't want to hear anything about that."

Sensing a change in whose hand was uppermost, Harry let his mouth curl wickedly and said, "There was this thing she'd do with her tongue ..."

"I'm warning you," said Ron, his voice shaking.

"You were the one who wanted to know." Harry shrugged and stared off into the depths of the fire. It was surely only a trick of the light, but the flames looked exactly like a couple writhing in ecstasy. Harry closed his eyes. "There was a time with Susan Bones when we were both stationed out in the Yorkshire moors. There was another time I got drunk with ... someone ..." Zacharias Smith, he filled in mentally. "I don't remember much about that --" a complete lie, he remembered every detail with perfect clarity "-- but there were blow-jobs involved, so it probably counts as sex." What Zacharias did after the blow-jobs certainly did. "Then, just before I moved here, I went to a prostitute. It was absolutely horrible. And that's it."

During the ensuing pause, Harry listened to Ron's breathing. Was it his imagination or was it coming quicker? His imagination, he decided regretfully, and opened his eyes.

"Well." Ron's voice was unusually restrained. "Not quite the stud the media makes you out to be, then."

"We knew that since Rita Skeeter's love triangles. Don't you remember how she set me up as a love rival to Krum, of all people?" Pity he hadn't realised at the time that his admiration for Krum was based on more than just his flying prowess. Krum had enormous feet. "Now it's your turn. Tell me about Hermione."

"What do you want to know?" asked Ron guardedly.

Harry sifted through all the possible questions he could choose. He finally settled on a fairly innocuous one. "Did you two ever get it together at any point?"

"You mean aside from seventh year?"

"That's exactly what I mean. I don't think that really counts. Everyone was so scared of dying by then that they were doing it with anyone." That had been the basis of Zacharias' excuse for never returning to Harry's bed. It was probably even true.

"Well, not really." Ron cleared his throat. "I mean, I tried. I always thought we would eventually. Get married, have some kids. There was never anyone else I seriously thought about in that sense."

Harry nodded and curbed the urge to ask Ron to tell him something he didn't know. Even during Ron's smitten stages with various girls, Harry had known that they didn't command one tenth of the respect and regard in which Ron held Hermione. Harry had always presumed that the sexual attraction would come along eventually.

"At first, she said she wasn't ready for settling down. I got that. We were both going to be working really hard in the beginning, what with me trying to secure one of the attending Healer posts and Hermione climbing the promotion ladder in the Ministry. I told her I was prepared to wait. After all, it's not like we needed to get to know each other. We'd even lived with each other for years, practically."

"Living with someone is a bit different from seeing them every day," Harry was moved to remark. "It's not like she knows about the weird stuff you got up to with your spots in the bathroom, or how you snore if you lie on your back."

Ron sent him a searching look, filtered through very flushed cheeks. Harry made a mental note to stop prodding the fire; the room was obviously getting over-heated.

"No," Ron said eventually. "But it's not like she would have dumped me because I --"

"Pluck your nose-hair?" suggested Harry. "No, I don't think she would. Hermione's not that shallow."

"Not in the least!" Ron sat up to emphasise his point, cotton and denim shifting in far too interesting ways. Harry averted his eyes. "Anyway, I was busy, she was busy ..."

"You just drifted apart?"

"If only." Ron carded his hair in his hands, exposing his midriff again. Harry was angry that he saw it; after all, he wasn't even supposed to be looking in Ron's direction. "One day I realised we hadn't even seen each other in a month. We'd never ... slept together. I mean, we'd kissed and stuff." Harry didn't pump Ron for more information; he could imagine just what kind of stuff Hermione would allow Ron to do to her. 'Tame' would be too strong a word. "So I Owled her and invited her out to dinner. She accepted."

Ron rolled on to his stomach and propped his chin in his hands. It made his voice sound oddly throaty. "We went out to one of those posh new restaurants that’ve popped up in Diagon Alley. All black sea bass and chocolate fondue -- practically inedible food and snobby waiters. I could tell Hermione loved it, though. She knew all about the ingredients -- could practically have cooked the meal for us. She let slip that Anthony Goldstein had taken her out to a couple of places like it.”

“Oh, don’t tell me you blew a gasket,” groaned Harry.

“Actually, I didn’t think anything of it,” confessed Ron. “She works with Goldstein, so I just assumed that these were business meetings they were going to, probably with the rest of her office.”

“Were they?”

“Not quite. They never did anything, though. Hermione’s straight as a die, she wouldn’t have cheated on me. But it was obvious, later, that she was just waiting for the right moment to tell me that, and I quote, ‘we had no future together.’” Ron heaved a great sigh, which came out sounding like a trumpet given the way his knuckles were constricting his air pipe.

“Christ, that’s pretty harsh. Given that I and the rest of the Western World thought you were made for each other.”

“Did you?” The angle of Ron’s face made his smile come out crooked. “You know, I never thought of it like that -- as destined, I mean. I just thought, she’s a great girl, she’s got two brains to rub together and we’ve been through a lot. We’d have made a steady couple. I knew I could trust her to be a good mother and role-model. At first I thought it was all because she didn’t want kids, but no, she does. Just not with me.”

“Well, tell me then. She must have had a reason!”

“Yes. It was a good one.” Ron’s laugh came out even worse than his smile. “She said it was because I was in love with someone else, and had been for years.”

“Wow.” Harry rocked back with the impact of Hermione’s pronouncement. “Talk about coming out of the blue! You’ve certainly kept it under your hat, too. Who’s the lucky girl, according to Hermione?”

“Well,” Ron’s breathing was definitely losing the battle to the hands pressing against his throat, “as a matter of fact, she said it was you.”

“Ewe?” said Harry in some confusion. “I don’t know anyone called that. Is she Americ -- oh. Oh. My. God.”

“No, don’t take it the wrong way!” Ron scrabbled for a sitting position, reaching out a placating hand towards Harry. “What Hermione felt was that you were such a strong presence in my life -- you know I always seemed to rate myself by your opinion more than anyone else’s -- she was looking for any old excuse to back out of it really --”

Harry was truly stunned. “Me?” he whispered, a tiny interjection that in the flurry of reassurances Ron didn’t hear at all.

Ron looked on the point of an aneurysm. Harry could hardly let himself credit Hermione’s words. After all, Hermione using Ron’s esteem for Harry as an excuse to break up with Ron was a far cry from Ron getting down on his knees of his own accord and declaring his enduring love for Harry. Not that Harry wanted Ron, or indeed anyone, to do that -- it was the sort of thing that needed to be consigned to the frothy romances that Ginny read on the sly. He realised he was getting tangled in his own thoughts and shook his head in a futile attempt to straighten out his brain.

Ron saw the gesture and deflated. This made Harry twice as confused. A burble from Sky made him physically start. “The night feed,” he said, grasping at straws like a milkshake addict. “And I need to bathe her ...”

“We were out of marshmallows anyway,” said Ron, with a stiff smile.

“I’ll be back soon. I will. I mean --”

“Don’t worry about it.” Ron gave a brittle laugh. “I’ll go clean up the kitchen from this morning.”

“Okay,” said Harry, and fled.

::
::

The bouncing chair was a godsend.

Harry kept his thoughts firmly focused on Sky and her concerns. Usually he’d have to lie her on the floor while running the bath, and all the Cushioning Charms and fluffy blankets in the world wouldn’t convince him that she wouldn’t smash her head off the tiles at some point. The bouncy chair kept her fully occupied while he turned on the taps and stripped to his boxers in anticipation of the tidal-wave splashing that would ensue.

When the bath was filled just enough -- Harry didn’t want to risk adding drowning to the bargain of potential head trauma -- and lukewarm, Harry took Sky up and spelled off her Babygro. She was as plump and pink as a marshmallow. Though he blew some raspberries into her tummy -- making her blow riotous bubbles in turn -- he found that she was far less edible than her doughy look-a-like.

“Sky is going for a big bath now,” chanted Harry, swinging her gently over the lip of the tub. “Harry is going to hold on to Sky so she won’t fall down, but look!” He skimmed Sky’s toes over the surface of the water. “Sky wants to go swimming.”

As usual, within seconds Harry found it easier to get into the bath with her than manoeuvre from beside it. The water just covered his knees. Carefully supporting Sky's neck, Harry deftly wiped her all over with a soft sponge. He’d bought it on his very first shopping trip with her, along with enough plastic nipples and nappies to supply an army of precocious neonates.

He talked nonsense constantly in a sing-song voice. It seemed to relax her -- to Harry’s mind, she was not a natural in the water, always trying to wriggle out of it and back into Harry’s arms. Harry wasn’t about to let her go more than a week without washing, however, no matter how much she seemed to revel in filth. She takes after me in that, thought Harry fondly. With a jolt, he realised that he was thinking of Sky as his own daughter.

On impulse he scooped her up and sat back in the bath, with Sky languishing upon his chest. She liked the view and immediately set about investigating Harry’s nose and glasses, apparently unsure as to which was the most fascinating. Harry let her prod and poke, assured that she didn’t have enough strength to pull his glasses off, let alone do any damage to them.

Harry kissed her deliciously plump shoulder and repressed the urge to tell her that he loved her. After all, she wouldn’t understand the significance of being the first person to hear that from Harry Potter’s lips even if she knew what speech meant.

“You must be getting cold.”

Ron’s voice startled Harry out of his introspection. Ron was kneeling by the bath, a soft baby towel in his hands. Harry could feel the warmth radiating from it and guessed that Ron had performed a Warming Charm over it. It was this that allowed him to surrender Sky from his embrace, where she was falling into a damp doze. She wriggled as Ron took her, as if he was a more solid form of bathwater, but when Ron tucked the towel around her and pulled the hood (with kitten ears) over her head, she submitted to his ministrations. In fact, Harry felt a dart of jealousy that she so soon feel prey to Ron’s charms.

Then again, there seemed to be few people about who could resist them.

Cradling Sky in one arm, Ron held out another, adult-sized, towel. Harry was both gratified and embarrassed to see that this one also had ears and a hood.

“They were doing a two-for-one special.” Ron relinquished the towel as soon as Harry’s fingers touched it, leaving him grabbing air in an attempt to prevent it falling into the bath. “You were in the bathroom changing Sky. I couldn’t resist.”

Harry swathed himself in the crisp warm folds. As a last touch, he pulled up the cowl and vigorously rubbed the hair underneath it. Suddenly bubbling with happiness, he smiled. “I’m glad you didn’t.”

Ron cleared his throat. “I’ll take her to bed, shall I?”

“Okay. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Amazingly, Ron didn’t dispute Harry’s assumption that he would be incapable of performing the task on his own. Harry didn’t think that -- he just wanted to put Sky to bed himself -- but he hadn’t expected Ron to understand it.

It was just one of many ways in which he’d underestimated Ron Weasley.

Harry stared at himself in the mirror. Scraggly curls drooped over his forehead and ears. Behind the old-fashioned glasses that he’d never got around to updating, his thickly-lashed eyes gleamed like a cat’s. They were the one saving grace in an otherwise unsalvageable face. His stubble was rampant and was nearly ready to be upgraded to the status of a beard. Harry winced at the sharp feel of it. Hardly daring to think why, he retrieved his wand and ran it over his face in a complicated charm. Afterwards, his chin felt almost as smooth as Sky’s rose-petal skin, or close enough to satisfy Harry.

It was when he looked at his mouth, with its dry, chapped lips, and wondered what it would feel like if Ron kissed them that was his undoing. Ever before, his fantasises about Ron had been unspecific. For a while, Zacharias and even the angry boy he’d fucked for money had taken Ron’s place in them. Harry just needed to think about naked skin and wickedly talented tongues and he was ready to go. This skill had allowed him to gloss over the extensive length of time that had passed since a female body had aroused the same feelings in him.

Imagining Ron’s mouth against his own was more than specific, it broke all the rules that kept Harry sane. Although Hermione had decided that Ron loved Harry, Ron loved plenty of people. His mother. His father. His brothers. Harry hoped against hope that Ron didn’t want to kiss them senseless. Love was not the same as lust. Harry loved Ron, of course; he always had. Thus far were they equal. Harry was almost certain that Ron didn’t feel anything more for him.

His penis begged to differ. The dry rubbing of the towel -- the towel that Ron had picked out, bought, and warmed for him -- between his legs was driving him mad. Slowly, ears pricked for sounds that would signal Ron’s departure from the nursery, Harry slipped his hand under the towel to peel back his damp, straining boxers.

He couldn’t possibly go to bed with a hard-on, after all. For all the money they’d spent and shops they’d traipsed through, Harry and Ron had both forgotten to buy a sofa that wasn’t a cunningly disguised death trap like the current incumbent. For the sake of his own health, Ron would be sleeping another night in Harry’s bed.

For the sake of Harry’s health, he wasn’t going to let Ron know how much that excited him. Tomorrow, Harry could wank all night and pretend it was Ron’s hand on his cock. Tomorrow, when Ron was safely asleep on the sofa.

::
::

As Harry and Ron both woke at the same time the next morning, they both had to face the fact that they’d ended up sleeping back to back like a pair of bookends. Harry, at least, was grateful for this turn of events. It would have been far worse if he’d spooned Ron in the night. Ron would have discovered Harry’s erection pressing into his back the next morning, thus blowing Harry’s fragile cover sky-high. It was quite astonishing, given the number of times Harry had got up during the night to tend to Sky, that he still ended up right next to Ron, although he fell back to sleep each time with his body practically falling off the side of the bed.

He didn’t let himself think how nice it would be, to have someone to curl up against in the night. He didn’t let himself think how little he wanted anyone else but Ron in that position. Instead, he casually bent his knees so that his stiff cock was hidden in the fold of the sheets.

Beside him, Ron did the same thing.

“Any plans for today, Harry?” Ron asked sleepily. He had sleep trapped in the corner of one eye. For someone so fair, Ron’s eyelashes were very dark, and so long that they curled. It wasn’t the first time Harry had noticed this, but it was the first time that his heart had missed a beat because of it. He remembered his former resolution to stick to Ron’s buttons and was appalled to discover his pyjama top was a t-shirt advertising the 2000 Quidditch World Cup.

“Um, not really.” Harry stared at his hands. They were gripping the bed sheet tightly, as if to guarantee protection from discovery of his arousal. Harry staunchly thought about McGonagall naked -- usually a foolproof softener. Unfortunately, Ron’s warm body right next to his elbow wreaked havoc on Harry’s concentration. McGonagall in a cut-away bikini kept morphing into a golden-skinned Ron with a strawberry perched between his full lips.

The Ron beside him didn’t look much like his vision. Far less angelic and far more pale and crumpled was Ron Weasley at ten am on a Saturday morning. His hair was as tousled as a kitten’s and his face bore the red marks of his pillow. Yet even such seedy details made Harry’s chest feel tight. Surely that wasn’t anywhere approaching a normal reaction?

Ron stretched his arms over his head. The lemon and peppermint had become a bit musty now, and there was a distinct hint of Lenor from the sheets. “What do you usually do on a Saturday?”

Harry shrugged. “The same things I do the other six days of the week.”

“Oh, I forgot you don’t work.” Ron made a little grunt of contentment as his muscles cracked. “This is such a luxury, I can’t tell you. Sleeping in till all hours and not needing to get up at all if you don’t fancy it.”

“It palls after about three days,” Harry pointed out crankily. “Plus I have Sky to look after now.”

“Of course. I heard you getting up for her during the night. You’re very dedicated.”

“Well, I could hardly leave her to starve,” mumbled Harry, blushing in spite of himself. “Here, I’ll make breakfast this morning. You stay in bed for a while longer.”

“Thanks, Harry.” Ron sounded more than grateful. Perhaps he too was nursing a morning erection. It was only to be expected in a young male, as Harry knew only too well. “You’re a mate.”

Harry swung out of bed and grabbed a jumper from the floor. It provided enough cover for his crotch to allow him to sidle out of the room with Ron none the wiser.

Sky was still fast asleep. His enthusiasm for producing feats of culinary excellence rapidly dimming, Harry wandered into the kitchen. He rarely did anything more spectacular to break his fast than pouring cereal into a bowl. As often as not the milk wouldn’t have arrived, so he ate it raw. He didn’t think Ron, who’d eaten a hearty bowl of porridge liberally laced with honey every morning that Harry had known him, would be too impressed by this.

The coldness of the tiles under his feet woke him up enough to co-ordinate putting some water on to boil and rooting through Ron’s neatly stacked groceries for inspiration. True to form, there was a packet of porridge mix there. Contenting himself with a handful of leftover marshmallows, Harry set to following the instructions on the packet with reverential obedience. It was almost fun, although he doubted he’d think so if he had to do it every Saturday.

Saturday. He was supposed to meet the boys for a game this afternoon. It was all set up. There was no way he could back out of it and be guaranteed the future use of his limbs. At least, so Mickey would have them believe.

Harry could get out of such a sticky situation. And Mickey could probably take Sky from him just as easily.

His hands froze on the last spoon, which he’d extracted from the drawer to test the porridge. It conducted red-hot heat right into his palm, but Harry didn’t notice. He was too absorbed by the horrifying thought of life without Sky. He’d only had her for a few weeks. It wasn’t fair that she be taken from him so soon.

“Generally when we mix porridge we move the spoon around a little,” came a voice from faraway. Then a hand clamped down over Harry’s and started swishing the spoon around the pan of congealing oats. In a rush, Harry became aware of peppermint breath in his hair and Ron’s body encircling his own like an embrace.

“I just remembered,” said Harry, “I planned to meet up with some friends this afternoon. It’s actually kind of urgent.”

“No worries.” A waft of lemon teased Harry’s nose. He felt his knees weaken, but he would not let himself lean back against Ron’s broad chest. It would be the ultimate stupidity. “I’d like to meet your new friends. I’m quite glad you have some.”

“Not really friends, as such,” bluffed Harry. “More like associates. We play cards.”

“I can play cards,” Ron reminded him, stepping back. Harry turned to face him, the dripping spoon still in his hand.

“For money!” Harry burst out in desperation.

The words fell into a shell of silence. Ron regarded Harry through his eyelashes. He was once again immaculately dressed and somewhat intimidating. Harry, in his boxers and floppy jumper, barefoot, and with hair that hadn’t seen the business end of a brush since June 2001, felt abruptly inferior.

“So that’s it, then? That’s why you’ve stayed away -- because you gamble your parents’ money away? Jesus, Harry!” Ron's voice rose. “You can do that just as well in Knockturn Alley!”

“I didn’t -- that’s not why! I didn’t leave because I wanted to gamble. That just sort of happened by itself. I stayed away because there were things I couldn’t face back there!”

“What sorts of things?” Ron’s voice was insistent. “What sorts of things, Harry?”

But Harry just shook his head, mute.

Ron compressed his lips. His arms snaked around himself. “Fine then.” He turned on his heel. He was almost out of the door before Harry plucked up the courage to ask him where he was going.

“I think I have a pack of cards stashed in my bag -- for slow night duty. I can practise with them,” explained Ron. At Harry’s baffled face, he added, “If gambling’s what you do for kicks, then that’s all there is to it. But you didn’t think I was going to let you leave me behind again -- do you?”

Harry found his voice. “Three o’clock.”

“That leaves me plenty of time to brush up on my skills. And make some new porridge -- you appear to have burnt your lot.” With a nod to the skillet, Ron stalked out.

Harry tightened his grip on the last remaining spoon. He willed down his smile at the realisation that Ron didn’t want to lose him again and concentrated on the even better thought -- that with Ron as his poker partner, Harry might actually win for once.

::
::

Part One
Part Two
Part Four

::
::
 
 
 
Loyaulte Me Lie: all about teh H/Rshocolate on May 31st, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
Harry's mind was busily sewing all the glimpses of Ron -- the edge of his knee, a bare toe, the firelight on his hair -- into a huge patchwork quilt of porn.

This is poetry.

And stonkingly sexy.

“Well,” Ron’s breathing was definitely losing the battle to the hands pressing against his throat, “as a matter of fact, she said it was you.”

oh my god!

Hermione always knows.
The Hysterical Hystorian: h-r-boysabigail89 on June 1st, 2006 08:54 am (UTC)
I have to agree. The quilt of porn was a stroke of genius.

I love this fic so far. But as I am scamming time from my job that has a wicked good kiddie filter, I can't access the fourth part, which grieves me greatly. I'll have to wait to get home to the unfiltered internet to access it.

OMG! I love your Ron. He's everything I've always imagined Ron could be, and have written, however poorly. And poor Harry--god, I want to snuggle him rotten.

I'm sending myself the link and will finish up later today. No wonder shocolate was so insistent we all read it. This is just first rate stuff. Well done!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Cat personscoradh on June 1st, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC)
(And luck.)

Gosh, it can filter that? That's pretty intriguing. Wanking is okay, but X is not? I hope the college computers don't figure that one out, or I'll never be able to get on my own lj ...

He's everything I've always imagined Ron could be

Why, thank you! When I write him positively I always see him the one way (and when I write Draco, I see him in a completely different way). Much 'preciated!

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Beltsscoradh on June 1st, 2006 02:19 pm (UTC)
And it completely happened by chance, because I was looking at my shoes! (I have ... odd shoes.)

BTW, I submitted this to the Quidditch Pitch, crediting you as one of the betas -- and they sent me an email back straight away to say I'd skipped the queue because the fabulous you were my beta! Isn't that just beyond cool?! ♥ ♥
Loyaulte Me Lie: autofelattioshocolate on June 1st, 2006 02:45 pm (UTC)
OMG, I had no idea I had such power!

Especially as my beta consisted of heavy breathing every time Ron did anything!!

I must be careful to only use my powers for good!
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on June 1st, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)
Speaking of heavy breathing ... YOUR ICON ... IT MOVES.

And porn. Of course. Always the porn. And teh Harry/Ron.
Loyaulte Me Lieshocolate on June 1st, 2006 03:32 pm (UTC)
it does - look at Harry's toes curling!!
the naughty librarianflaminiag on May 31st, 2006 07:15 pm (UTC)
Lovely! Just lovely! Yeah, "a huge patchwork quilt of porn" had me, too--very quotable!
Grown-up Ron would be very responsible--he's not really a daft as most people think--but we've always known that. I'm off to the last part...
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Plum jamscoradh on June 1st, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)
[thoughtful] I love patchwork quilts even more than porn. I'm hoping when I grow up the Amish will sell me some.

I think he'd have to be, what with minding Harry and whatnot!
Insufferable, man.: harryroncynicalpirate on June 1st, 2006 10:05 am (UTC)
Uh, yes. The patchwork quilt thing.

When the bath was filled just enough -- Harry didn’t want to risk adding drowning to the bargain of potential head trauma -- and lukewarm, Harry took Sky up and spelled off her Babygro. She was as plump and pink as a marshmallow. Though he blew some raspberries into her tummy -- making her blow riotous bubbles in turn -- he found that she was far less edible than her doughy look-a-like.

Ngh, all the Harry/Sky bits are adorable.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Pandas can't talk!scoradh on June 1st, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC)
Heh.

My dirty secret is out now. I love babies. I think they're too cute. And squishy.

Very squishy.

Also floppy ...
Fred: younginnocentfredgreddy_freddy on June 1st, 2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
Very squishy.

Also floppy ...


Disturbing.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on June 1st, 2006 03:19 pm (UTC)
No, no! In a good way. A ... poke-able way.
(Anonymous) on June 2nd, 2006 02:57 pm (UTC)
i love the way they find their way back to each other. gorgeous.

this bit :
He was astonished to discover that the only device Harry owned for carrying her about was his own two arms.

“First on the shopping list: a pram,” was Ron’s response to that.


i thought a sling (pouch, baby carrier) would have been a nicer option to emphasise the human connection aspect to the story.....