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31 May 2006 @ 08:52 pm
Part Four  

Part One
Part Two
Part Three


Harry and Ron arrived at the gaming hell so early that only Mickey was there before them. It was better than Harry could have hoped. This way, he could thrash out his presumption in bringing Ron along before there were other card sharps around to cloud the issue -- or to make Mickey feel like he had to make a macho man stand.

Harry thrust his hands into the pockets of his oversized hoodie to hide the fact that they were less than rock-steady. "Hey, Mickey," he said. "Um, this is my mate Ron. He's visiting. I brought him along because, uh --"

"Can he play cards?" Mickey wanted to know.

"I sure can," said Ron, flashing Mickey a smile. Mickey was not fazed.

"He's got the readies?"

"I've got enough for both of us," Harry hastened to say. Ron might be earning a steady wage these days, but even his life savings wouldn't allow him to gamble in the style to which Harry was accustomed.

"Grand so," said Mickey. "Pull up a chair." He bared his tobacco-stained teeth in what had to be called a smile, because there was no word to describe the facial expression of a tiger preparing for the kill. Ron recoiled slightly.

"So, what's your friend's name?" said Mickey, watching as they settled down on the rickety dining chairs, not one of which matched. Harry was aware that some of them would fetch a tidy sum at an antique dealer's, but he had never mentioned it. If Mickey didn't already know, then he would not take kindly to having his ignorance highlighted.

"Ron," said Harry. "He's a medical student."

"Really?" Mickey inclined his head. "He got one of them specialities yet?"

"Nope," said Harry. "But he's thinking about maybe gynaecology -- or paediatrics."

Mickey's eyes narrowed in approval. "You like kids then, son?" He addressed this question to Ron by dousing him with a fine spray of brown spittle.

"I do," said Ron, steadfast in the line of fire. "I have lots of brothers and sisters -- and nephews and nieces. Babies are great."

"That they are." Mickey expectorated noisily. "Ah, here's the lads."

A gaggle of men came through the door. Harry saw Ron's eyes boggle at the sight of Miss Melanie and pinched his thigh in warning. For all his time in the magical world and the necessary exposure to freaks that working in a magical hospital entailed, Ron was still most susceptible to anything out of the ordinary. Worse, his face shouted his shock more loudly than his tongue ever could.

Ron subsided and Harry remembered to release his fingers. Miss Melanie had not missed this little interaction, for her eyes lit up like tops.

"Harry!" she crowed, descending on him to peck both his cheeks. Her lurid lipstick stained Harry's cheeks, leaving him looking like a victim of leprosy. Ron looked visibly affronted by such forward behaviour, but Harry's attention was too occupied with Miss Melanie to do anything about it.

"You didn't tell us you had a new squeeze!" accused Miss Melanie. "He's terribly pretty, Harry love. Did you order him out of a catalogue?"

"Er, not quite," muttered Harry, slipping out of her grip. "He's a mate from school."

"Mate? Too right." Miss Melanie gave Ron a very obvious once-over. To his credit, Ron's ears remained a normal shade of white, although there were deep grooves beside his mouth that suggested that he was clamping his mouth shut. "I'd mate him any day."

"Leave him alone, Melanie," barked Mickey. "This ain't no bagnio. You wanna chat him up, you wait till we've finished playing."

"Oh, very well." Miss Melanie pouted. "You'd better lay stakes on him, Harry love," she added in a stage whisper. "Otherwise I may just nab him for myself."

Harry gave her a sickly grin and turned his attention to the cards Mickey had just laid before him.

Ron had shuffled his chair closer to Harry's to accommodate the swell in numbers. His thigh brushed against Harry’s, sending tingles up Harry’s spine that were as delicious as they were alarming. If Harry had thought his concentration was shot the first day he’d gambled after finding Sky, then it was riddled with bullet-holes now.

Ron, meanwhile, was nodding and smiling around at the other players. Unlike Mickey, they were far more vulnerable to the charm offensive that was The Grin. To a man, they all nodded and smiled back, some of them even going so far as to grunt a greeting.

Ron didn’t drop the smile when play began in earnest. It wasn’t until they’d won the first round that Harry realised that The Grin was more than just a ploy for reducing females to gibbering piles of mush -- it was first and foremost the most disconcerting poker face Harry had ever seen. And he was Ron’s partner. The other players were shooting each other darkling looks. These lightened somewhat when Ron offered to stand the next round with his winnings.

The feeling of the rough gin sliding down his throat let Harry slot far more easily into his surroundings. He never paid very much attention when he was playing cards. His hands knew what to do with them. Had his brain been engaged he might have got on better, but that wasn’t why Harry did it in the first place. He played so that he could will away the emptiness for a while.

Except that the emptiness had been receding for weeks now. The Extendable Ears that informed him that Sky was gurgling to herself were the greatest proof of that, but even more so was Ron’s body next to his. The more gin Harry shipped, the more he started to loll towards Ron. That sort of behaviour was totally permissible in drunks and Harry indulged himself to the hilt, even going so far as to rest his cheek on Ron’s shoulder for the entirety of an intermission in play.

Harry had been far drunker playing cards than he was now. The difference between his intoxication then and now was that now, at least half of it was due to his proximity to Ron. Another quarter was due to the fact that he hadn’t had someone to slump against since the first time he’d got drunk when he was seventeen. And the person he’d slumped against that time had been Ron. It was like riding a very oddly-shaped bicycle. Harry could remember just how to do it.

He wasn’t tanked enough to remain ignorant of the fact that Ron was winning two games in every three, with precious little input from Harry and absolutely no change of expression. Mickey believed whole-heartedly in beginner’s luck -- it tended to make people believe that they would have intermediate and advanced luck as well, which was good for business -- but this was going a bit too far. The men’s brows were darkening again and the many rounds Ron had bought weren’t going to do anything to soothe their tempers. Harry didn’t like to think what would have happened if he had not heard something even worse through his Extendable Ears. Sky was crying.

Harry sat bolt upright, his hand clamped to his ear. Sky was sobbing to herself and the sound rent Harry in two. His drink-fogged mind was capable only of latching on to one thought: he had to leave. He had to get back to Sky.

The current game was nearing its natural conclusion, but for Harry every second dragged like a decade. At last it was over, and Ron reached forward to scoop up his winnings. Harry took the opportunity to tug his sleeve.

“Sky,” he whispered hoarsely.

That was all he could say, but fortunately it was all he needed to say. Ron dropped the cash as though it had suddenly become as hot as its origins and helped Harry to his feet. Harry wasn’t quite so paralytic as to require it, but he didn’t mention that. Even in the midst of his fear for Sky, he could appreciate how good it felt to have Ron’s arm about his waist.

“It was great to meet all of you,” said Ron warmly. “But now I think I’ve got to get this squiffy man home.”

The other players immediately brightened, all except for Miss Melanie, who looked considerably put-out.

“Aren’t you going to take your winnings?” asked Mickey.

“No, no. Have another drink on us,” insisted Ron. It was exactly the right thing to do. Harry hammed up his part, crossing his eyes and tripping over his feet as Ron led him out. Ron obviously didn’t realise that Harry was acting, for the fingers at his waist tightened and his other arm snaked around to press Harry’s shirtfront upright.

As soon as they were clear -- the night air hitting Harry’s face like a jackhammer -- Ron pulled his wand from under his shirt. “On three, I’m going to side-along Apparate you,” he said. “One --” Was it Harry’s imagination, or was the hand at his waist stroking the skin under his jumper? “Two --” Ron’s lips were right up against Harry’s ear, so the whisper boomed through his skull. “Three!” And Harry felt the lightest of kisses brush his cheekbone as they were swept away.


It had been Harry's intention to race to Sky's room as soon as they Apparated in, but he discovered that this was not to be as soon as he tried to take a step forward on his own. The disorientation of Apparation combined with the disorientation of alcohol made walking a precarious exercise in balance gymnastics.

"Steady on, mate," laughed Ron as Harry staggered into the doorframe. "Here." His arms came around Harry again, just in time to prevent him doing a swan-dive into the tiles.

"I didn't realise I was this drunk," said Harry thoughtfully. He became engrossed with the cornice surrounding the bare light bulb in the ceiling and didn't notice that Ron was shepherding him into the living room. When he felt himself being lowered on to the wasp couch, his protest was more vehement than he'd intended.

"I've got to get to Sky!" he protested. To his horror, he felt tears welling in his own eyes. "She was crying. She needs me."

"I know, I know," said Ron. Harry pressed his head against Ron's immovable chest to try and push him away. He only succeeded in getting a mouthful of Ron's shirt. "You're in no state to climb the stairs, though. I'm going to go get Sky and bring her down to you, how about that?"

"Don't -- patronise me!" Harry shouted. Or at least, that's how it started in his brain. By the time the message had travelled down several thousand gin-sodden neurons it was considerably garbled. The cerebral Chinese Whisper reached his mouth as a sad little moan that sounded like 'Down parry knee,' but not so much as it sounded like the product of a severely faulty digestion.

"Right." Ron gently disengaged himself. Harry was horrified to find that his arms had somehow twined around Ron's back like a persistent strain of poison ivy, but the discovery wasn't as bad as the difficulty he was encountering in removing them. Ron got hold of his wrists and tugged them away, but he clasped Harry's hands for a moment before leaving. Harry was left half-drugged from the feeling of Ron's breath on his face and the leg that had briefly been pressed between his knees.

Harry dozed off in the interim. When he woke up, his head was buzzing like a hive of pre-menstrual bees, but his thought processes were far clearer. Not willing to enrage the bees further, Harry kept his movements small.

The fire was lit and the room bathed in flickering yellow. Ron and Sky were sitting on a rug before it. Every so often Ron broke his contemplation of the flames to rock the bouncy chair, which action seemed to please Sky. All evidence of her earlier crying jag had been erased and she now looked perfectly content, if sleepy. A plate of toast was on the floor beside Ron, but it was untouched. Harry realised that he was ravenous.

Before he said a word, Ron's head swivelled in his direction. Harry wondered if he'd heard Harry's stomach grumble, or if he was just periodically checking that Harry hadn't died. Either way, Harry became aware of three things simultaneously: he was stone-cold sober, he had a thumping headache, and he wanted to kiss Ron Weasley very, very much.

"You feeling better?" Ron pitched his voice low in deference to Harry's condition and Sky's half-asleep state, but it only made him sound far sexier than usual. Harry wished his limbs weren't quite so leaden, so he could cross his legs and hide any embarrassing bulges from view.

He cleared his throat instead. "Still pretty rough. Did I fall asleep?"

"Yup. I didn't have the heart to wake you -- you looked so exhausted." Ron leaned forwards and deftly extracted Sky from the harness that secured her to the bouncy seat. "Don't move, I'll bring Sky over to you."

"I'm not an invalid," protested Harry.

"No." Ron grinned, melting Harry's defensiveness like so much snow. "You're disgustingly hungover." Even as he talked, he was moving across the room, coming to a halt before the sofa. He perched on the edge, Sky bundled into his arms.

Harry didn't want Ron to leave straight away. Instead of reaching out for Sky, he touched one finger to her soft cheek. "What was wrong with her?"

"Not a thing besides wanting some attention," said Ron cheerfully. "When I got upstairs she was grouching away to herself, but the moment I picked her up she cut it out. She's a baby who likes to be touched a lot, for reassurance."

"Yeah," said Harry, his voice sounding thick to his own ears. "You're great with her."

"It doesn't take much," laughed Ron. To Harry's surprise, he hoisted Sky up and kissed her noisily on the forehead. "At this age they want food and attention. It's when they start walking and talking that I get crap with them."

"I never noticed that," said Harry.

Ron sent him a speaking look. "Didn't you?" Before Harry could answer, Ron went on, "Do you feel up to holding her?"

"Of course," said Harry. To allay Ron's potential fears, he added, "I don't usually pick her up when I'm under the influence, but I'm not now -- and anyway, I won't be walking anywhere with her."

"I know you wouldn't, Harry," said Ron. Harry had to strain to hear him. "I always trusted you." He held Sky out to Harry.

Harry slipped his hands under the warm bundle. For a moment he got a firm hold, then he realised the thing he was clutching was in fact three of Ron's fingers. They both muttered 'Sorry' at the same instant and tried to pull back, leaving Sky dangling precariously between them. Harry grabbed at her and tucked her into his chest, but the sudden movement overbalanced him and his upper body tipped into Ron's.

"Sorry," he said again. His nose was practically in Ron's ear. Ron was, for some reason, deathly still. When Harry drew back he saw that this was because Ron's eyes were shut tight. He had probably fallen asleep; after all, he'd been up minding Sky while Harry slept off the gin.

Harry licked his suddenly dry lips. There was a split-second opportunity there and he took it. With Sky's head in the crook of his arm, he leaned over her body and pressed his mouth to Ron's as if he did it every day.

A second later he knew it had been a terrible mistake. Ron was not asleep at all. He tensed up; his mouth trembled under Harry's. Mortified, Harry turned his head away and looked down into Sky's drowsy face, wishing he could snatch back the last minute and live it again.

Then Ron's hand drifted up to his face. Shocked, Harry lifted his gaze and discovered that Ron's expression was curiously intense. As if in slow motion, Ron brushed the hair back from Harry's face, smoothing his fingers against Harry's skull again and again until Harry's skin was tingling. He parted his lips unconsciously, fascinated by the way Ron's irises had eclipsed the bright blue.

Ron's hand moved down to cup Harry's cheek, his thumb skimming over the skin under his glasses. Ron's hands were shaking. It was only when Harry's hold on Sky tightened that he found his hands were trembling too.

Tired of waiting, and certain that if he had to do so for a second longer he would physically explode, Harry extricated one hand from under Sky and used it to pull Ron towards him. At the last second Harry's nerve failed him, but Ron didn't hesitate. He closed the tiny gap between their mouths with a soft sigh, which puffed against Harry's skin for an instant before Ron's dry lips rustled against his.

Harry closed his eyes and gave himself up to the sensation of having someone else's mouth moving on his. Ron kissed with sweet hesitancy, pausing every so often for just long enough for Harry to throb with need. One pause lasted just a little too long. Rather than let Ron pull away, Harry shifted beneath him. He slid his fingers through Ron's soft hair and, without warning, tugged him into a deeper kiss. Ron opened his mouth before Harry's onslaught, but Harry's instinct told him that Ron was not going to initiate anything more than that.

For the moment, Harry concentrated on drawing Ron's lower lip between his teeth, scraping it gently in a way that had made him moan helplessly when Zacharias had done it to him. Ron was no stronger than Harry had been, but he panted instead. Harry dug his fingers deeper into Ron's hair, ready to push his tongue past Ron's defences and snog him for all he was worth.

At that moment, Sky let out an affronted squall. Ron and Harry jumped apart and snapped their gazes to the baby squashed between them. Sky had been sinking gradually as the kiss progressed and finally, just as things were getting interesting, she'd started to be suffocated by the sofa cushion.

"Shit!" exclaimed Harry. He snatched her up and dabbed at her drool tenderly, but with a usual level of ineffectiveness. Ron spidered back to the other side of the sofa, flushing scarlet.

Harry's heart was still thumping loud enough to awaken the rock and roll dead, but his brain was catching up with him. He was afraid to look at Ron. He didn't know what would be worse: that Ron would be horrified by his lapse in judgement, or that he'd found their making-out session as much of a turn-on as Harry had.

In the end, he took the coward's way out. His eyes riveted on Sky's downy scalp, Harry muttered, "I'd better put her to bed."

He watched Ron's bare feet leap from the sofa. "I'll have a shower I think!" he shouted as he dashed from the room.

"Okay," said Harry to Sky. "This has the potential to turn into a very sticky situation."

He didn't know how right he was.


Well aware that he was hiding out, Harry remained in the nursery for a good half an hour. As he rocked, soothed and even sang to Sky, he heard the shower blasting from the bathroom. After a long time, it stopped. He heard footsteps creak past the nursery door without ever pausing.

Sky was giving him looks that succinctly suggested that he bugger off and let her go to sleep. With a sigh, Harry blew her one last kiss, checked that the stars were still shining bright, and trudged towards his own bedroom.

But for one thing it was a much more welcoming place than Harry had ever imagined it could be. The deep red carpet and drapes that Ron had conjured, far from making it look like an austere womb, merely served to make it a cosy retreat. Harry now liked it almost as much as the nursery. If it wasn't for the fact that he was now going to face more music than a compulsive opera-goer he would be delighted to end his day tucked up in bed there.

Ron was sitting on that very bed in his pyjamas, scrubbing his hair with a towel. Harry coughed to announce his presence, then immediately wished he hadn't. Ron flung the towel away as if it had stung him and stared at Harry with a fearful and penitent expression. His wet hair stood up in tufts and whorls not unlike Sky's, and despite knowing what he had to do next Harry felt his heart constrict with both affection and pounding, throbbing lust.

Ordering his legs to move, he padded over to the bed and tucked his legs up beneath him. His face a mask of serenity, he opened his mouth to speak. So did Ron. In confusion, Harry shut his mouth again and gestured for Ron to speak.

Ron, when he spoke, sounded inordinately furious. "I know I should apologise -- for everything. For coming to stay here, for trespassing on your hospitality, but most of all for what just happened. I spent all -- well, nearly all --" his face turned two shades redder "-- of my time in the shower coming up with ways to say sorry to you. But I'm bloody noy."

"Ron --"

"No!" Ron half-shouted. He held up his hand as if to ward himself from Harry's gaze. "Let me finish. Please." He drew a ragged breath. "I'm not sorry. I think I've wanted to kiss you ever since I fucking met you, but first I didn't realise it because I was straight, wasn't I, and then because we were fighting a war and girls were practically throwing themselves at us and then, and then you left ... But I'm not sorry and I never will be. If you want me to leave tonight I don't mind."

"Ron, please shut up!" Harry was nearly giddy with joy. "You do love me, then? Hermione was right?"

"Hermione's always right," muttered Ron. He raised two anguished blue eyes to Harry's face. "I never meant to ... involve you in this. I thought the longer you stayed away the easier it would be to live without you. It didn't quite turn out that way. The moment there was a chance to see you again I grabbed it, and I never thought of the consequences. Perhaps if I'd been more honest with myself before I could have shielded you from this. I am sorry for that."

"I think you're forgetting something."

"What?" Ron's voice was very small and sad.

Harry crawled across the bed until his face was inches from Ron's. "Don't you remember?" He caressed the fabric that was stretched taut over Ron's knee. "I. Kissed. You."

"But I let you!"

"Not really," countered Harry. "I mean, it was a great kiss, but I didn't even get my tongue in before Sky so rudely interrupted us."

"You don't mean you wanted to --"

"A lot," Harry confirmed. He played an arpeggio on Ron's inner thigh. He was quite unprepared for the Ron's reaction, which was to flop back on the pillows and let loose a shriek that would have left a banshee seething with jealousy. After one stunned second, Harry realised that he was laughing.

"All this time," Ron said, "we've been circling around each other, assuming we didn't feel the same way about each other ... why were we so blind?"

"I, at least, have an excuse," said Harry, brandishing his glasses.

"Yes, you do," said Ron, his eyes darkening again. He sat up awkwardly, as if -- like Harry -- he was feeling hyper-aware of every move he made.

"So," said Harry. He bit his lip to stop the grin from sliding back on to his face, for he really was nervous. "What do you say we take up where we left off an hour ago?"

"Sounds good," said Ron shakily.

It was different from the last time, though. That had been a fusion of impulse and instinct, meshed with a 'Get out of jail free' card in the form of Harry's alcohol consumption and addled wits. Now they were both sober and making a conscious decision. Harry fumbled for Ron's waist at the same time Ron tangled fingers with him; Ron's attempt to remove Harry's glasses with aplomb nearly ended up blinding Harry. Harry started to laugh and, after a beat, Ron did too, which broke the tension.

"Here," said Harry, breathless from laughter and lust, and pressed both sweaty palms to Ron's face to bring it forwards. His mouth rubbed over Ron's lips; this time, they opened straight away. Ron's hands slid up under Harry's shirt, his fingers running lightly over the knobbles of Harry's spine.

When Harry stroked his tongue over Ron's lower lip, he started slightly. Harry kept pressing and, eventually, Ron's tongue essayed a quick swipe across Harry's teeth. The thrill this evoked in Harry took him completely by surprise. He arched his arousal into Ron, and was gratified to feel a similar response through Ron's thin pyjamas.

Ron was evidently not so elated. He broke away and rubbed at his spit-shiny mouth. "I'm not sure ..." he began.

"Ron," said Harry in frustration. "Look." He grabbed Ron's hand and thrust it towards his crotch. "I have a huge erection but guess what?" He slipped his own hand between Ron's thighs. "So do you!"

"It's not that." Ron was compulsively licking his lips. Harry, his mind going blurry around the edges, watched Ron's tongue as a hungry hawk might do a family of obese mice on a field trip. "I can't just do this for one night."

"Congratulations on your stamina," said Harry. "Me, I'm lucky if I last ten minutes."

Ron gasped with laughter, which was rapidly truncated when Harry flexed his fingers. "I don't mean like that -- oh God -- I mean -- please, you've got to take your hand away before I --"

Reluctantly, Harry returned his hand to his lap, where he clasped both over his tented jeans. For two pins he would have keep teasing Ron, but that would have denied him the chance to take a good, long look at Ron's erection before he came.

"What do you mean, then?" Harry was aware that he sounded sulky, but Ron's mouth was reddened and inviting and there was no denying that his cock looked like it could do with some tender loving care. Harry couldn't see what the problem was, aside from the obvious one -- that they had stopped.

"I could hardly bear it before," Ron was saying in a gush of words. "You kept giving me all these hot looks, like you'd discovered I was the last other human on the planet, and I wanted you so much. I wanted to fuck you in the middle of Tesco in front of that creepy blue-haired woman --"

"Oh God," said Harry, sniggering. "That probably would have done for her."

Ron ignored him. "But it's not fair. I've been falling in love with you for eleven years. You've fancied me for a week. I don't want to be a -- a one night stand!"

"So," said Harry, carefully, "you'd quite like to hang around, then? With me and Mickey and Sky in this dump of a house."

"Yes. No." Ron's hands curled into fists. "I don't particularly like your gambling habit. I don't like this house or this neighbourhood at all. I think Sky is wonderful but she's not yours, Harry. I -- yes. I want to stay with you. And Mickey. And Sky. In this dump of a house."

"Out of interest, do you usually subject your lovers to this sort of interrogation?" said Harry. "I mean, I love you, despite the fact that you're a blind daft plonker who never thought he was good enough to even hang around with me for some reason, but not everyone has this sort of leverage on their side."

Ron's eyes had gone very wide. "Do you mean that?"

"No, I'm just saying it for the hell of it, because I so often do that," said Harry irritably. "Could we please work out the logistics of it later? Deciding who makes breakfast and who makes dinner is slightly less urgent right now than my cock."

"Oh," breathed Ron. And he smiled.

"Fuck," Harry groaned, as his cock gave an almighty throb. "Please, Ron. I need you ..." In desperation, he stuffed his own hand down his trousers, squeezing hard to provide some small relief.

All at once, cool fingers were drawing his hand away. "Let me deal with that," said Ron, suddenly sounding every inch the authoritative Healer.

Harry allowed himself to be divested of his t-shirt and lay back on the pillows, guided by Ron's hand on his bare chest. His breath came faster and faster as Ron inched his jeans past his hips, his knees and, finally, his ankles -- and left them there.

"Ron," he said thickly.

"No." Ron's kiss was firmer than before, but just as shy. Abandoning finesse and any sort of technique, Harry kissed him back bruisingly hard. He was about to slip him the tongue when Ron's hand wrapped around his cock. Harry's head fell back as he forgot everything but Ron's touch in that most private and wonderful of places.

Ron was faster and rougher than Harry was on himself, but he found he liked it much better. He shamelessly thrust into Ron's hands, and tried to spread his legs wider only to find the jeans around his ankles constricting him. He made do with throwing his knees apart, presenting Ron with a fine view of his trembling thighs.

One of Ron's hands slipped away, but before Harry could protest at the loss Ron's tongue found his nipple and latched on. Harry barely had time to get used to this new sensation before Ron's straying hand found its way to his balls. He fondled them as roughly as he did Harry's cock, but this did nothing except bring Harry to the brink.

Another, almost brutal squeeze wrung a cry of warning from Harry, but before he even thought about coming Ron’s fingertip slid around his balls to rub against the tiny opening there. That Ron even knew about that place, not to mention the thought of what he might want to do with it, was the last straw. Harry cried out again and bucked upwards, splattering semen all over Ron’s waiting hand.

It took several minutes for Harry to come down from his orgasm, and several more for him to remember exactly how to breathe again. When at last he opened his eyes, Ron was stretched alongside him. When their eyes met, Ron smiled and ran the side of his finger down Harry’s cheek.

“Boy, were you noisy,” he said. “I’m used to girls only doing the ‘just stepped on the cat’s tail’ thing and squeaking a bit.”

“Wait till I get to you. You’ll be squeaking like a girl.”

“Is that a threat or a promise?”

“Both.” Harry reached for Ron, but he evaded him.

“Wait just a sec. Lie back.”

Obediently, Harry did so. He couldn’t resist toeing off his jeans, though, just so he wouldn’t look so ridiculous splayed out in the buff. Embarrassment fought for supremacy over determination in Ron's face. Fascinated, Harry watched as Ron opened out his hand to reveal Harry's come cupped in his palm.

"I'm going to claim you now," said Ron. He snorted. "It seemed like a better idea two minutes ago, but what the hell."

Dipping his index finger into the milky fluid, he touched a drop to Harry's forehead, each of his nipples and, finally, to his lower lip. Then he shoved down his pyjama pants and brought out his cock. With infinite slowness, he bathed his straining erection in Harry's come and began to pump.

Harry smiled. His muscles still felt like flax, but he shuffled around so that he was kneeling behind Ron, his body pressed up against Ron's back and Ron's firm arse pressed up against Harry's already stirring cock. Harry bent his head to kiss Ron's shoulder and up along his neck as Ron shuddered and his fingers flew up and down. At last, Harry deemed it time to lend a helping hand. A deep groan issued from Ron's lax mouth, but it was superseded by another when Harry curved his other hand around the underside of Ron's buttocks.

Harry let loose a throaty laugh. "It feels as good as it looks," he informed Ron, and began to lift and squeeze.

"Huh?" Ron turned a bleary eye on him. His arms were clenched with effort; he wasn't going to last long.

"Tell you later," whispered Harry, and leaned in to finally slide his tongue into Ron's mouth before Ron gave in to greater forces than God and gravity combined, and came.


"I can't help it," Harry said, but he was laughing.

"It's cooking." Ron shook a mixing spoon at him. "It is necessary for the continuation of life and the species, because no one seems to be able to live on raw meat. That's it."

"Exactly." Harry slipped off the counter and kissed Ron full on the lips. It turned out that Ron hadn't outgrown his blush after all; it was merely dormant, and all that was required to bring it to the fore was Harry's mouth on his skin. "The other thing required for the continuation of the species is sex. That's why they're both so hot."

"Speaking of hot --!" Ron leaped forward to rescue an enthusiastically bubbling pan from imminent conflagration.

Harry went back to contentedly eating Ron's supply of strawberries and observing him prepare salmon en croûte. There were certain spheres of life in which Ron was utterly competent: cooking, Healing, changing dirty nappies and making Harry come. In any of these, he was a joy to watch. He didn't realise his own appeal, which made it all the more enjoyable.

Harry was jolted out of his reverie by a most unprecedented noise -- the doorbell ringing. Ron dropped a whisk and turned to look at Harry with a questioning expression.

"I'll get it," said Harry. He grabbed Ron's dressing gown to cover the fact that he was dressed in extremely revealing boxers. He doubted the average passer-by would appreciate them to quite the same extent that Ron did. "It's probably the milkman."

To Harry's everlasting gratitude, Ron didn't mention the fact that he'd already brought in the four cartons of milk two hours before. Instead, he said, "Don't be too long, or the strawberries will be pleading wilful abandonment."

The tiles were cold against Harry's feet, but he didn't dare to perform a Warming Charm in case the caller was a Muggle. The last thing Harry wanted, now that his life was finally getting back on track, was a letter from the Misuse of Magic Squad.

There was a woman standing on his doorstep. For a June day, the weather was chilly, but Harry got the impression that this woman would have huddled into her coat in the same fearful way in the middle of the Sahara. She raised two dull blue eyes to his face, and Harry knew who she was.

"Lily," he said, even though the word stuck in his throat. "Do you want to come in?"


The kitchen table was Ron's pride and joy, a symphony of blue speckled marble and distressed walnut legs. Unfortunately there were only two chairs. Skinny and underfed as Lily White looked, Harry doubted that she'd fit into Sky's high chair.

"Please, sit down," he said. He wrapped the dressing gown tighter around himself. He felt caught out, although there was no denying that the rich, clean wool was a damn sight more presentable than Lily's street clothes.

"Thank you." Lily's voice didn't even deserve the accolade of whisper. A light breeze would have drowned her out.

"Can I get you something to eat?" asked Harry. "My boy -- Ron, my housemate, was making lunch. He'll easily stretch it to three."

"I don't want to put you to any trouble," murmured Lily.

"It's no trouble," said Harry, rather too strongly. He stuck his head round the door and hollered for Ron.

He needn't have bothered. Ron was sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Sky was in his arm, dressed in a Babygro, ra-ra skirt and frilly jumper, in addition to her duck-blanket papoose. Her bouncy chair sat on the stairs beside Ron.

"Problem?" mouthed Ron.

Harry shook his head and spoke normally. "Come on in," he said. Ron raised his eyebrows at the unnatural high C that Harry's voice was hitting, but he obeyed. Harry trusted that Lily noticed nothing amiss.

Harry positioned himself at the counter, in an ideal position to see the way Lily's eyes widened hungrily at the sight of Sky. With a distrustful glance in Lily's direction, Ron handed Sky over to Harry.

"Ron, this is Lily White." Harry swallowed. "Sky's mother. Lily, this is Ron, my housemate. He'll be making us lunch."

"Oh, I will, will I?" muttered Ron under his breath. All the same, he returned to dicing lettuce leaves. His back was stiff and he took care to keep it turned to Lily all the time, even when he needed to face her.

After a few minutes of tense silence, during which Lily's face became greyer and greyer, Harry couldn't stand it any longer.

"Look," he said in a harsh voice that he hardly recognised as his own, "I think we all know why you're here, right? You've come to take Sky back."

"Sky?" said Lily in her tiny voice. "Is that what you called her?" She shook her head in wonder. "I called her Matilda."

"Well, if you had perhaps informed me of the fact, I would have done so too," said Harry testily. "Obviously you forgot to leave a nametag when you dumped her on my doorstep."

"Oh, no." Lily shook her head. Her wispy hair was confined under a jaunty patterned scarf. It was at odds with the rest of her appearance, which seemed to suggest a desire to blend in with the pavement. "I didn't quite do that. Mickey suggested that you'd be able to give her a good home. A different home." For a moment, Harry felt vindicated. "I stayed until you opened the door and took her inside. You think I would have left my own child to die of exposure because Mickey's judgement was wrong for the first time in his life?"

"I don't really know what to think of you," Harry admitted. "It's been six weeks and this is the first time you've been to visit her."

"I was occupied." Lily's smile was as weak as the rest of her, but her face was grim. She shrugged out of her coat with visible effort and rolled up the sleeves of her shapeless jumper.

Harry's gasp made Ron turn around. His eyes narrowed as he took in the same sight that had greeted Harry. Lily's frail arms were an atlas of bruises. Most were an angry red, shading to purple, but there was evidence of older bruises fading to green and yellow beneath the newer ones.

"You don't know me," said Ron, "and I'm not really involved in this situation, but if you think I'm letting an innocent child go back to that sort of treatment you've got another think coming."

Lily rested her steady blue gaze on him. Harry watched Ron's face tense up. "Not really involved, you say? But aren't you involved with him? That makes you involved in Mat -- Sky's welfare too."

"We're friends," Ron blustered.

"I'm sure you are. You're also lovers." Lily shrugged. "Do you think I'm going to condemn you for loving someone like that? Given my own less than picture-perfect heterosexual marriage? No, if I had the chance you two have, then I'd take it quick as look at you."

"Mickey," guessed Harry.

"Partly. That is to say, Melanie told him her suspicions, and he figured out the rest himself. But give me some credit." Lily's smile was genuine this time. "I can see the way you look at him -- are looking at him now. If you weren't lovers I'd be getting a bit worried."

"Er, okay." Harry scratched the back of his head. "I take it Norm's gone back to the ship, then?"

"A ship," Lily corrected him. "He used to work on a Norwegian trawler. It kept him away for months at a time. But he got laid off and he's been taking work wherever he can get it." She hugged herself. "It means he's home far more often."

Abruptly, Ron pulled up the other chair, leaving the salmon to its fate. "Lily, I think it's time you laid all your cards on the table. It's not fair on Sky for you to turn up whenever Norm's off on his ship and take her back, to upset her like that. It's even less fair on Harry." He paused. "On Harry and I. You're right. We're a pair, now. And with Sky we make a family." Harry blindly grabbed for Ron's shoulder. Ron reached up to clasp Harry's hand with his own. "It's a bloody odd family, I'll admit, but we certainly don't beat the child around the place and nor would we. Ever. My father raised seven children without ever laying a hand on us." He tactfully left out the times Mrs Weasley had chased her spawn around the kitchen with a wooden spoon.

"I didn't come to take her back," said Lily quietly. "I came to say goodbye."

"Are you moving away?" Harry furrowed his brow.

"No." A flicker of warmth passed over Lily's face, and was gone. "I'm dying."

Ron sat back, stunned. He lost his grip on Harry's fingers. "Of what? I'm a He -- a doctor."

"That's good. But you can't help me. I have terminal cancer." At Ron's blank look, Lily added, "Breast cancer. It runs in the family."

"How long have you known?" whispered Harry.

"Since I got pregnant. I had the option of chemo, but I would have lost the baby." Lily's glittering eyes fell on to Sky's slumbering face. "But I knew I couldn't leave a baby with Norm after I died. That's why I asked Mickey to help me as soon as I knew. He started looking around for a new home right away."

"Why didn't you use the normal channels? Adoption? Foster homes?" asked Harry.

Lily's voice was full of derision. "And let Norm have the chance of finding out where she was? Never. And do you think they'd let me adopt her out when she has a living father, to whom I am in fact married? Don't be ridiculous. That just doesn't happen. By the time they realised Norm's true nature it would be too late for her. I knew Mickey's way was the only way."

"And is Mickey your -- was he --" Despite the three extremely dirty things he'd done to Ron only a few hours before, Harry found he couldn't finish the sentence.

"He's my brother." Lily's gaze swung between the three of them. "I knew what you must think of me. I doubt you would have understood at the beginning. That's why I waited until now. You've had the experience of being a parent. Maybe now you know that I'd never have left a child if I had any other way. If I wasn't dying, I'd have found the courage to leave Norm once and for all. I'd have done anything to give her a better life."

"Well." Ron's voice was oddly final. "You got lucky. Because that's just what we'll give her."

The last fierceness seemed to drain out of Lily, leaving behind an almost luminous serenity. "I'm glad." She closed her eyes for a moment. "I'm so glad."

"What are you going to do now?" asked Harry, as Sky started to waken.

"Mickey's bought me a private bed in a nice hospital," said Lily. "I've got my few bits together. He's going to visit me. It will be very ... peaceful."

"Are you sure that's what you want?"

"You mean, am I sure I don't want to take Sky anyway?" She sent Harry the ghost of a wink. "I'm sure. She's the only thing that's making it hard to leave. I didn't want to go without saying goodbye, though. I couldn't."

"Of course not," said Harry, although he didn't really understand why Lily didn't want to snatch Sky and make a run for it, cancer or no cancer.

Lily fumbled in her voluminous pockets. "I brought a few things," she said haltingly. "For her to remember me by. I hope you don't mind."

"No, no, it's good." Harry smiled. "I don't think she'll buy the story that Ron had her, no matter what he thinks."

"Thank you." Lily started laying out a few meagre possessions on the table. Harry saw a photograph and a necklace before he had to turn away.

He dropped a kiss on Ron's temple, realising afresh that he was luckier than he knew. Not only that Ron had turned out to love him back after all these years, but also that he wasn't a psychotic violent bastard. By comparison, the small matter of both of them being male and having to inform Mrs Weasley that she would be deprived of a whole set of grandchildren from Ron was small beans. After all, Sky might soften the blow.

Ron relaxed into the kiss and, after a moment, left the room and the bouncy chair behind. Harry approached Lily and held out his arms. Lily's face had a terrible hope in it.

"I thought you'd like to hold her," Harry explained. "I thought you'd like to hold Matilda for the last time."


Harry lay with Matilda on his chest while Ron blew raspberries on her tummy. He was starting to feel left out, what with all the soppy attention Ron was lavishing on her.

"Don't!" exclaimed Ron as Harry pulled him down into a sloppy kiss. He extricated himself before Harry's tongue had time to gain any purchase. "We're official parents now. We have to be responsible."

"Responsible my arse," growled Harry. He steadied Matilda with one hand and wedged his leg between Ron's knees, making him fall over -- right on to Harry's waiting mouth.

"We'll squash her," Ron mumbled.

"What, you mean again?" Harry flicked his tongue over Ron's stubbled chin. "I think she's getting used to it by now."

"It must be scarring her, though," Ron insisted. They both turned to look at Matilda. Ron's chin was wet with saliva and Harry wasn't much more respectable. Matilda regarded the both of them with bovine interest.

"Doesn't look too scarred to me," said Harry, grabbing Ron. "And I know about scars."

In a very short time, their kisses became more heated. A little careless of the baby on his chest, Harry pulled Ron down so that their thinly-clad legs were entwined.

"No!" said Ron again. "I'm sorry, but I refuse to expose myself in front of my daughter like this. If you want a fuck, she has to go for a nap first."

"Damn," grumbled Harry. "I thought parents' libidos were supposed to flag hopelessly after having kids. No chance there. I'm horny as hell."

"To be fair, we didn't actually have her." Ron's conscientious expression made Harry even harder with the desire to wipe it off in the most effective way he knew.

“Shut up and kiss me,” said Harry. “I promise I won’t cop a feel. But it’ll take ages to get her off to sleep and I’m dying.”

“Dying, is it?” Ron muttered into Harry’s mouth. “Do tell that to your cock, won’t you? It seems to have other ideas.”

With an effort, Harry broke the kiss. He sat up, carefully holding Matilda out of the range of his tented pyjamas, and rocked her. “Who wants to go to sleep? Matilda does,” he said, in hopes that it would invoke some sort of hypnotism.

Matilda gurgled. “Da,” she said. Harry froze. Behind him, Ron did too.

“Da,” Matilda repeated, smiling. Her hands waved in the air, patting Harry on the cheek. “Da Da. Da ... Da.”

“That’s right,” said Harry, an enormous silly grin on his face. “Da and Da.”

“Oh, great.” Ron was resigned. “Now she’s talking, we really can’t have sex anywhere near her. Even in the same house as her. Next thing we know she’ll have told my mother all about it and we’ll be getting nasty looks and extra helpings of greens for the rest of our natural lives.”

Harry shrugged. It seemed a small price to pay, as Matilda informed the door, the carpet and the light fixtures that she had a ‘Da’ and another ‘Da’.

Besides, he thought -- as Ron’s hand drifted across his arse before coming to rest on the small of his back -- it would be an easy rider to get around. After all, Ron had once said the same thing about Harry’s ideas concerning the whipped cream, the chive low-fat spread, the hot toffee sauce, and the handcuffs (strangely, he’d been less disturbed by them than he had by the deviant uses for cream cheese).

“Okay,” said Harry Potter, and grinned.

the end

I had a dream I was your hero
I wish I was your lover
I’d rock you till the daylight comes
Wait till you are smiling and warm
I am everything
Tonight I’ll be your mother
I’ll do such things to ease your pain
Free your mind and you won’t feel ashamed
For me there is no other
You’re the only shoe that fits
I can’t imagine I’ll grow out of it
I wish I was your lover

(Sophie B Hawkins)
Loyaulte Me Lie: take careshocolate on May 31st, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
The kisses are just beautiful.

But this...

All at once, cool fingers were drawing his hand away. "Let me deal with that," said Ron, suddenly sounding every inch the authoritative Healer.

*spontaneous human combustion*
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Nitrous oxidescoradh on June 1st, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
Kisses are my fave. I dno. Always been a bit of a kink of mine!

Oh dear. And me without my portable fire-extinguisher on me.

[prods] oh the love. --> you.