Disclaimer: Surely no one is silly enough to believe that I own these characters, or this world? JK Rowling does and I’m only playing with them. I promise they’ll be happy when I put them back.
Author’s notes: This series is supposed to cover the last two years of school for Harry and Ron. It discusses child abuse, underage consensual sex between two people who love each other, and will eventually cover MPREG as well. If any of these topics offend you please turn back now. In addition, I have tried to follow cannon as best as I can, but you know how it goes…I’ll have messed something up somewhere along the way. I know their birthdays are wrong, but lets just allow for artistic licence and no one will get hexed.
I’d like to thank Spacey for the beta job, putting up with my Australian spelling, and helpful hints. Any mistakes still in here are mine!
Further warning: this piece in particular starts off quite dark, but things get better as they go along.
Part One and Two - the Summer Holidays
Harry lay in the small, hot, stuffy room and stared blankly at the wall. Hedwig’s cage sat empty by the window. She was off to the Burrow, sending his daily report - something that ran along the lines of ‘still here, still alive, nothing to report’, although sometimes he changed the order of the words around for a bit of variety.
Alastor Moody’s words to Uncle Vernon had made the long weeks following Sirius’ death an unrelenting course in hell. The moment they stepped into the house his Uncle had turned and slapped Harry - hard. This was something that had rarely ever happened to Harry before - verbal slaps and jabs, yes, but the Dursley’s had never actually touched him if they could help it; to the point that Harry had learned to take care of his own grazed knees and elbows at the age of three.
The slap had been followed with a shove that sent him to the floor and Dudley had landed on Harry’s chest with all of his not inconsiderable bulk, winding him thoroughly. Though his cousin had been inflicting quite a bit of pain on Harry at the time, instead of the malicious enjoyment that Harry had expected to see in those piggy little eyes, there had only been a sort of sick fear. Dudley was afraid of Harry, to the point of terror. The knowledge had not been comforting.
Uncle Vernon had then proceeded to tell Harry very clinically that if he breathed one word of protest to his Wizarding friends, then Vernon Dursley would kill his nephew himself. Harry would be locked in his room unless working on the chores that they set him, and any chore not finished to their standards would result in no food for that day. Uncle Vernon had then kicked Harry in the side and while he was attempting once again to recover his breath and deal with the pain, his Uncle had rummaged through Harry’s pockets until he’s come up with Harry’s wand.
Dudley had leapt off Harry and Uncle Vernon had ordered him to his room. Aunt Petunia, who had been standing by the door for the entire encounter, ignored Harry’s desperate glance and instructed her son to lock up Harry’s things - although Hedwig would be placed in Harry’s room. Every morning Uncle Vernon appeared with a pen and piece of paper, stood over Harry until he’d written a note that passed approval, then watch his nephew send Hedwig on her way.
Harry found it hard to care. He was still grieving over Sirius and the disastrous attempt to thwart Voldemort that he’d led at the cost of his friends. The fact that his godfather had been killed coming to Harry’s defence, coupled with the knowledge that he should have listened to Hermoine and Ron, and mastered the Occlumency lessons no matter what he thought of Snape and his hatred, only added to the burden of despair Harry carried with him. Ron and Hermoine had paid a terrible price for their support of him, and though he’d have been devastated if Hermoine had died, if Ron had been killed Harry would have followed him without second thought. Thankfully both his friends had survived and Harry had made a pact with himself that he would keep them safe with whatever means possible. If that meant dissolving his friendship with them and distancing himself from everyone then so be it.
His cousin unlocked the door, and Harry dragged himself automatically to his feet, his gaze remaining fixed blankly on the walls. This was another part of the daily routine at Privet Drive, one that Dudley himself had instigated. Now that Harry’s wand was safely locked somewhere in the house, Dudley had overcome some of his fear and reverted to their childhood pattern of beating the living daylights out of Harry whenever he felt sure his parents wouldn’t notice. Harry had tried to defend himself a few times, but Dudley had evidently gained some knowledge of boxing at Smeltings - disproving Harry’s initial theory that he was on the team because his layers of fat cushioned his opponents blows and when they’d tired of hitting them, Dudley could then take a big swing.
When the door clicked shut behind his cousin once more Harry dragged himself to the bed and lay down. He knew that in the morning the worst of the bruises would have faded, and the sharp pains he carried in his body would have retreated to a dull ache. His Aunt and Uncle ignored the faded traces of the beatings, and Harry knew better than to complain. As long as he could complete the list of chores and maintenance that they left on the table for him, there would be no move to curtail Dudley’s pleasure.
The only positive thing that Harry could find in the situation - and it was more a ‘laughing so I don’t cry’ attitude at that - was that the mental distance created by the physical pain and sheer grief had allowed him to master the skill of Occlumency pretty quickly. Voldemort would have an easier time getting into Gringotts, or Hogwarts for that matter, than he would getting into Harry’s mind once more.
Harry’s gaze shifted a little, falling on the calendar that Dudley had received last Christmas and discarded. Harry had been surprised to see it pinned to the wall of Dudley’s second bedroom until he remembered that Dudley’s Great Aunt Drucilla had sent it, and she was expected to give her nephew a sizeable inheritance when she died. Aunt Petunia probably didn’t want to run the risk of upsetting her as Dudley’s marks were as low as ever and it looked like he wouldn’t be fit for much of anything when he finished school.
With a jolt, Harry realised that it was Ron’s birthday today. His friend was turning sixteen, which meant that the present that Dobby the house-elf was keeping for Harry would be delivered today too. Harry had found it hard to hide the present - and the act of purchasing it - from his friend, what with them living in the same dorm room and all, but Dobby had presented him with a unique opportunity to keep his gift hidden and Harry had happily taken it.
Though his friend hadn’t shown it, his stint as the Griffindor House Quidditch Keeper had stiffened his hands and wrists considerably. Woods old robes and protective gear had fit well enough to play in, but the protective gear had, by reason of much use and practice, been moulded to fit their former Keeper. Ron would have grown into the robes by the time school started next year, but Harry had bought him a complete set of new protective pads from Quality Quidditch Supplies.
He’d had them delivered to Hermoine and Dobby had then hidden them, along with a card from Harry. One of the school owls would deliver the package today and Harry spent a few moments singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his friend silently. Wizards came of age at sixteen in the Wizarding community, and his friend would be allowed to learn to Apparate as well as use magic outside of school term - provided he wasn’t doing it in front of Muggles. There would probably be a party at the Burrow tonight but, as it was only the second week of the summer holidays, Harry would not be able to leave the protection of Privet Drive.
To be honest, he hadn’t wanted to - the chance that he would attract Voldemort’s attention once again and thereby put the whole Weasley family at risk had pretty much dampened any desire he had to go to Ron’s birthday party, and he hadn’t been invited anyway. Hedwig sometimes returned with a letter from Ron, or Mrs Weasley, which Harry would be forced to show Uncle Vernon. On those occasions the daily reply would include some reference to their letter, albeit very carefully worded.
Unable to get comfortable with the new set of pains and bruises, Harry closed his eyes and fled into sleep. At least when he slept there was a chance he would dream of his friends, seeing them happy and safe.
“Congratulations, Mr Weasley, you’ve passed your test,” the voice of the Witch in front of him was bored, but Ron couldn’t care less. The moment he’d gotten home from Hogwarts, Ron had a mission. He was going to study and practice for his Apparate test and pass it the day after his sixteenth birthday. His mother had been a little taken aback when he’d stated his intentions the first evening home, but his father’s eyes had gleamed with understanding.
“An excellent plan, Ron,” Arthur Weasley had spoken before his wife could, “Young Harry will appreciate the company, I’m sure.”
Ron grinned in memory. His father may have been a quiet man, but he was not dull. He often saw to the heart of his children’s actions before their mother did, and would offer his opinions quietly, in a way that always held their attention, no matter what he said.
“Thank you,” Ron remembered his manners and took the official certification she was holding out to him. He signed where indicated - pledging not to abuse his licence and to follow the guidelines laid down by the Ministry for anyone who Apparated - and then took his copies back into the corridor where his mother was waiting for him.
“I passed!” he told her, and yelped when she wrapped him in a fervent hug, “Mum!”
If there was anything more embarrassing than being hugged by a dewy eyed mother in the middle of the Ministry for Magic, Ron couldn’t think of it.
“Oh congratulations, dear!” Molly let him go and straightened his robes automatically, “And on your first try too! Come on, your father will want to know!”
Ron followed along happily, unable to wipe the grin from his face. This was a freedom he’d wanted desperately for some time - and not just because it meant that travelling would be easier. He’d long argued against the exile that Harry was placed in each summer, though Professor Dumbeldore had stated time and again that Harry had to stay with his only blood relatives until his birthday. That meant that Harry had missed the comfort of being surrounded by friends for most of the summer holidays.
That didn’t mean Harry forgot him - he’d managed to send a birthday present each year - often tucking it into Ron’s trunk before they left school. They’d only exchanged cards for the most part, but this year his friend had sent him the perfect gift. His family had also done a bit extra - the sixteenth birthday was important to Wizards - but it had been Harry’s gift that gave him the most pleasure. Not because the protective gear had been new and of excellent quality, but because Ron hadn’t said anything about having to use ill-fitting gear, which meant that Harry had been watching him. The thought that his best friend had at least been concerned for his comfort gave Ron a very warm glow in the pit of his stomach - one that he tried not to indulge too often.
“Ron! How did you go?”
Ron looked up, startled. While he’d been mooning over his gift from Harry, his mother had ushered him down several floors and into his father’s office without him even noticing.
“I passed, Dad,” Ron grinned, and showed his father his licence. Arthur clapped his son on the shoulder and grinned at his wife. Their youngest son was growing in leaps and bounds, and gaining his independence fast.
“So, Mum, are you ready to go to Privet Drive with me?” Ron handed the licence over to his mother, who stowed it safely in her handbag. After all, the daily visits to Harry were the only reason Ron had worked so hard. If left to his own devices, he probably wouldn’t have started studying the theory or the practice until well after his birthday. Once he’d let the reason for his eagerness be known he’d pestered his mother every day to agree that they would go straight to Harry the moment Ron passed his test.
“Yes, dear,” Molly scolded affectionately, “As you’ve asked me every day since you’ve gotten home, we’ll go to see Harry now.”
“Give him my regards,” Arthur held his wife’s eye significantly. It hadn’t taken Ron much effort to persuade them that he should be allowed to visit every day - it would allow the Weasley’s to keep a closer watch on the teen that their son had befriended almost six years ago. Harry’s letters were very … uncommunicative. Molly had been worried about the orphaned Wizard for some time. Which was why she hadn’t objected too loudly when her son woke her up early this morning, eager to get the test done with so he would have more time with his friend.
No one could Apparate directly into or out of the Ministry, and since Voldemort’s attack the security had been tripled. Molly Weasley ushered her son very firmly into one of the supervised Apparate zones in the lobby - guarded by senior Aurors, and a slew of protective spells - and ensured he knew exactly where he was going before Apparating herself. She would go first to ensure that the Muggles Harry lived with didn’t panic and attack them. Ron counted to ten and followed, a grin on his face in anticipation of seeing his friend again.
Harry closed the door to the bathroom softly - he’d lost a days meals when Uncle Vernon accused him of slamming the doors - and headed back into his room. The Dursley’s insisted he bathe every morning before appearing downstairs, and as it was his chore to cook their breakfasts Harry got up early to ensure that he was ready for whenever they decided to appear at the table. Late breakfast equalled no food, and Harry thought he might actually be losing weight as he’d had to tighten his belt another notch around Dudley’s hand me down jeans.
He hung his towel in his perfectly neat room - the bed was made to Aunt Petunia’s perfecting standards already as she liked to inspect the room on her way to breakfast and any item that was out of place earned him punishment - and walked as quietly down the stairs as possible. Uncle Vernon had docked him a days meals for walking too loudly. Harry had fast come to realise that any sound he made was punishable, unless of course he didn’t answer his relatives quickly and politely enough. That, naturally, was punishable too.
He slipped silently into the kitchen and started pulling out the ingredients for the Dursley’s usual late Saturday morning breakfast. He set the table, opened the blinds to allow the exact amount of light in that Aunt Petunia had decreed and waited until he heard his Aunt and Uncle stirring before getting the first round of cereal and toast ready. He heard Aunt Petunia go into his room and hoped that he hadn’t forgotten anything today, as he hadn’t eaten yesterday after Dudley accused him of sneaking food while he cooked it the previous night.
Uncle Vernon came down the stairs and went to fetch the morning paper from the front doorstep - Harry was forbidden to step out into the front yard at all, otherwise that would be his job too - while Aunt Petunia whisked into the kitchen and regarded him with a face that looked as if she’d been sucking the sourest lemon in England.
“Your towel is on the floor,” she snapped and Harry contained a sigh. It must have slipped off the end of the bed after he left. That was it for today’s meals then. Resigned, Harry bowed his head and recited the apology that he seemed to utter ten times a day.
“I’m sorry for my lazy habits Aunt Petunia. Please may I tidy it up?”
His Aunt jerked her head and he walked past her, hurrying along the hall to avoid his Uncle’s return from wherever the paper had been lying. There was a new paperboy on their street and he seemed to delight in tossing the papers into the hardest to reach places he could find. Ordinarily, the whole thing would have amused him, but Harry knew it was only a matter of time before he was blamed for this too.
He was heading back down the stairs when a familiar heavy tread sounded behind him. Harry gripped the banister tightly, hoping desperately that Dudley would just thump him on the way past and not linger for any further ‘pleasantries’.
“Hello Potter,” Dudley growled in his ear, pinning him to the banister, “I’ll be going out today, so we’ll just have our little chat now…”
That was all the warning Harry got before one of Dudley’s fists buried itself in his kidney. Pain exploded through his body, and Harry grunted, biting his lip desperately to keep any further noises to himself.
What happened next appeared to occur in slow motion. There were two very loud cracks in the kitchen and Aunt Petunia screamed. The front door opened to admit Uncle Dursley with the Saturday paper clutched in his hand, and Dudley’s fist drove into his body again, actually lifting his feet from the floor. The pain was so great that for a second, Harry didn’t realise he was toppling forward. Dudley hit him again and as Aunt Petunia burst out of the kitchen Harry went headfirst over the banister. His hand was still clutching it - in fact his grip had tightened from the pain, and for a sickening moment his body did a complete roll in the air before his grip broke and he came crashing feet first into the hall, in front of his Aunt and Uncles astonished gaze.
Harry felt both legs snap upon impact and couldn’t contain the scream as he crumpled into an agonised heap on the floor, his glasses smashing beside him. Before any of the Dursley’s could move, either towards or away from Harry, the kitchen door swung open behind Aunt Petunia again and Ron and Mrs Weasley burst into the hall.
“Harry!” Ron shouted, his eyes wide in horror as he shoved past Aunt Petunia to kneel at his best friends side. Harry’s ears were ringing and the hall was ballooning in and out of focus, so it took him a moment to register Ron’s presence.
“Ron,” the whisper was pained and Ron gulped as tears ran unheeded down the pale face on the ugly carpet. He took Harry’s hand gingerly and nodded.
“It’s ok Harry, we’ll get you to St Mungo’s in no time, right Mum?”
“Oh Harry dear,” Molly sounded near to tears, “Ron, we can’t move him ourselves. I’ll go to St Mungo’s and get them to come here…”
“Mum…” Ron protested, but fell silent when she glared at him. Her hands were touching Harry very lightly, and there was a red glow at the end of her wand.
“Ron, he’s hurt too badly for us to move… do you want to kill him? Don’t argue with me! Just stay with him and make sure the Muggles don’t touch him!” Molly was at her fiercest and Ron nodded. She stood up and took a few hurried steps away from the broken body on the floor before Disapparating. Harry flinched at the sound and then moaned.
Through a haze of pain, he watched as Ron looked at the three Muggles left behind. He was glaring fiercely at Dudley, who paled and disappeared up the stairs quickly. Uncle Vernon was red faced and trembling, but he stepped forward, his beady eyes fixed fiercely on Ron’s face. When he spoke it was in a fierce sort of hissing snarl.
“Get out! We don’t want your kind here! Bad enough we have to tolerate him without having more of you in the house! We’re decent, normal people and we’ll have…”
“Decent!” Ron shouted, his voice rather shrill, brandishing his wand. It shot golden sparks at Uncle Vernon, who leapt back and batted at them with his newspaper, “Decent! Look what you’ve done! You’ve killed him!”
“Ron,” Harry squeezed the fingers wrapped around his weakly, trying to calm his friend before someone got hurt. Ron had inherited his mothers temper, “Don’t.”
“Shh, Harry. Save your strength. We’re getting you out of here. Do you have your wand?”
Harry shook his head a little and closed his eyes as another wave of fierce pain flowed through his battered body. He felt Ron rub their fingers together gently, an oddly comforting touch. Uncle Vernon was yelling that Harry’s wand was locked up and they’d never get it, but Ron didn’t bother trying to argue with the man to Harry’s great relief.
There was a pause, and then a series of smashing noises that had Aunt Petunia squeaking in panic. When he managed to force his eyes open again Ron was holding his wand in his hand. He managed a faint smile, relieved that it wasn’t going to be left with the Dursley’s. There was a rattle upstairs and then Hedwig hooted, announcing her return from Ron’s house. Harry panicked, clawing at Ron a little and his friend looked down at him eyes wide. Comprehension crossed his face and he tilted his head up to the ceiling. Hedwig should not be left unprotected in this house.
“Hedwig!” Ron shouted, “Go to the Burrow! Go back!”
Hedwig screeched and they heard her depart. Harry slumped back again, gasping for breath. Ron was starting to look really worried and he crouched over his friend, his hands waving aimlessly in distress. There were multiple cracks and Ron whirled to point both the wands - they were still clutched in his hand - at the door. Aunt Petunia shrieked and pressed her already thin self flat to the wall.
Molly Weasley led a team of Healers into the hallway and Ron sighed in relief, turning back to his friend.
“It’s ok, Harry, they’re here,” he smiled. Harry couldn’t answer - he had finally blacked out.
Ron was forced to sit in the waiting room with his mother while the Healers whisked off Harry. The three Wizards looked very grim, and Ron had not been comforted when Molly had rushed off to contact Professor Dumbledore, it seemed to him that his mother was trying to get their Headmaster to the hospital before something terrible happened - like Harry’s death. The waiting room was crowded with a variety of Witches and Wizards with various spell and magical creature related complaints and the noise levels were uncomfortably loud. Several of the waiting patients were floating around the ceiling, anchored in place by anxious relatives or a spare tentacle.
Ron chose a seat near the door that Harry had been whisked through and stuck his wand back inside his robe. He kept Harry’s in his hand, choosing to polish it on the faded blue summer weight robe he was wearing over the Muggle clothes that he often wore in the holidays. A few blue sparks shot out of the tip and he sighed, tucking it in next to his own wand and leaning back in the chair.
“Mum! Is he coming?” Ron waved when his mother appeared and called to her as she crossed the room, avoiding the Witch with a variety of snakes for hair.
“Yes, I got hold of him and he’s on the way. I also sent a message to your father,” Molly sat down, a very worried look on her face. Ron leaned into her side a little, very glad that his mother was here with him.
“How could they do it?” Ron choked, his words pouring over the top of each other; “You saw the bruises…they’ve been hurting him for the last fortnight. And you should have heard what his Uncle said! He said that they were decent people and shouldn’t have to put up with the likes of us! Decent! We’ve never…”
Molly put her arm around his shoulders and held him tightly, her kindly face troubled. Ron hid his face in her shoulder for a moment, his whole body shaking with anger and shock.
“Hush, Ron dear. It’s going to be all right. Your father and I will ask Professor Dumbledore if we can have him for the rest of the holidays,” she soothed, patting his arm. Ron sat up and glared at her, wholly unappeased.
“And what about next year??” he growled, “I’m telling you mum, he goes back to those … those … Muggles over my dead body!”
“Calm down, Mr Weasley,” Professor Dumbledore’s voice was oddly soothing. Ron shot him a mutinous look, but subsided, mumbling under his breath. Neither mother or son was surprised by his sudden arrival - Dumbledore was famous for turning up out of the blue.
“Have you any news, Molly?” Dumbledore asked and she shook her head.
“Nothing yet, Albus,” she sighed, her eyes on the doors at the end of the room. Dumbledore sat down opposite them and leaned forward. He looked very grim, and Ron was struck by the tension in his Headmaster’s hands.
“Then perhaps you can tell me exactly what you saw?”
Ron and Molly took turns to report what had happened, and Ron made sure that the Headmaster knew that Harry’s wand had been locked away, and his friend covered in bruises. He also related word for word Vernon Dursley’s little rant. The Headmaster didn’t move, and if it weren’t for the cold angry glimmer of his blue eyes behind his half moon glasses, Ron would have thought him a statue.
“Professor Dumbledore,” a voice called and all three of them stood up. The Healer who had called them was dressed in the usual green smock and wore her blonde hair back in a tight plait. She had a small medallion pinned to the front of her robes beneath the sigils for St Mungo’s. When he got closer Ron could see it marked her rank as a Senior Healer. As she was quite young looking that meant she was one of the best and a part of him relaxed a little. Harry was indeed getting the best care.
“Ah, Healer Goodsby,” Dumbledore smiled as they reached her side, “I take it you’ve seen our Mr Potter?”
“I have,” she sounded grim, “Come with me.”
She led them into a small office just through the doors that led into the emergency treatment area and waved them to a seat.
“Healer Goodsby was one of our most promising students…” Dumbledore said very quietly to Molly as they all chose seats. Ron perched on the edge of his, tension returning in a wave.
“I take it you’ll want to speak to Mr Potter?” she asked Dumbledore, who nodded solemnly. His face was tense beneath his beard and Molly was fairly quivering.
“Hmm, well I can allow a short interview. We had to do a lot of work to repair his injuries, including several tricky potions for the internal damage… and you’ll have to be very careful about the way you couch your questions, Professor. The combined effect of those potions can be a bit like Veritaserum, and he’ll probably tell you things that he would normally keep to himself.”
“What were his injuries?” Molly beat Ron to the question by only a second, and Goodsby looked even grimmer, if possible.
“He badly broke both of his legs and dislocated his shoulder too…probably when he grabbed the banister in the fall. He’d been hit repeatedly in the kidneys for quite some time; he was underweight and dehydrated as well. The fall caused further internal damage, and of course a nasty concussion. He’d also broken several ribs. We’ve put it all to rights, though he’ll need to stay here for a few days of observation and carefully monitored diet. If you want to speak to him, Professor, you’ll have to do it now…he’ll go to sleep soon and likely not wake until tomorrow evening.”
Dumbledore nodded and followed the Healer out, leaving Molly and Ron in stunned silence. Ron stared at the floor fiercely, his fists bunched inside his robe. He was aware that his mother was dabbing at her eyes and sniffing, but didn’t look over at her, his own eyes and throat burning too badly.
Ginny was waiting for them at home, along with a very agitated Hedwig. Ron had insisted on seeing his friend before they left, and they’d sat with Harry until he succumbed to the sleep the Healers insisted he needed. By the time they left St Mungo’s it was getting on for teatime, and Molly had decided they’d go straight home.
“What happened to Harry?” Ginny demanded the moment they stepped into the kitchen, but she was drowned out by Hedwig’s agitated screeches. Ron managed to coax her onto his arm and took her up to his room, leaving his mother to deal with Ginny.
Dumbledore had left St Mungo’s after questioning Harry, presumably to go and see the Dursley’s. Ron wanted desperately to go see them himself, but knew that if he did he’d hex them into oblivion and probably end up in Azkaban Prison. Once the door to his room was shut, Ron sat on the small bookcase under his window and petted Hedwig’s feathers until she calmed down. He spoke to her gently, the way he’d heard his friend do so often, and was relieved when she responded, settling her feathers back into place and fixing him with a very intent look. Ron’s owl Pigwidgeon was hooting at her very softly from his cage.
“You’ll be able to see Harry soon, I promise,” Ron reassured her, “He’ll have to spend some time at the hospital, but then we’ll have him back. You’re not to go back to the Dursley’s, understand?”
Hedwig hooted once and blinked at him. Ron smiled and placed her on top of Pigwidgeon’s cage for the time being, before sorting out some water and owl treats for her. There was a knock on his door just as he finished settling her in, and he sighed, closing his eyes. Ron didn’t feel up to dealing with his rather excitable family at the moment - his mother would be all maternal concern and smothering, and Ginny would be furiously indignant.
“Come in,” the words slipped from his mouth very reluctantly, and Ron was very glad to see his father step into his cramped room. Arthur Weasley was known for his calm temperament, and patience. Of course once his patience ran out he was just as much of a firecracker as his wife. None of his children tried him that far more than once.
“Dad,” Ron offered a small smile, “I was just settling Hedwig down.”
His father looked over at the now serene white owl and nodded before sitting on Ron’s rather rumpled bed. He patted the blanket in invitation and Ron joined him readily.
“How are you, Ron?” Arthur’s voice was very gentle and Ron felt his eyes sting in reply. He clenched his fist and took a rather shaky breath, determined not to cry - after all, it wasn’t him in St Mungo’s. It wasn’t him who’d been nearly beaten to death by the people who were supposed to protect him.
“Me?” the tone was very bitter, and startled Ron as much as anyone, “I’m fine!”
Arthur put his arm around his youngest son and squeezed his shoulders gently. Ron had as much right as anyone to be upset, though the boy would deny any such thing. His second youngest had always maintained a very gruff and strong front, but he felt things deeply.
“It must have been quite a shock this morning, to find Harry in such condition.”
“I knew that he hated the Dursley’s,” Ron’s voice was strained, “And I knew that they locked him up that one time… but Dad, they’re his family… All my life I’ve known that you and Mum loved me, and did what you thought best for me. If I got into trouble I knew that you’d back me up as long as I owned up to it and took my punishment. You never yelled at me for no reason, and you never just belted me. And even when Mum gave us a smack…”
“There, there son,” Arthur rubbed the shoulder his hand was clutching and rocked them both a little, as he had when Ron was a baby, ignoring the tears and shaking, “Harry will recover, and then we’ll have him with us.”
“How much more is he supposed to take? His parents are dead, and so is Sirius, and then they… I hate them!” Ron choked the words out passionately and Arthur didn’t say anything more. Truth was he was just as angry as his son - and his imagination took him a lot further. From the very first visit that Harry had made to the Burrow, he and Molly had noticed several disturbing little behaviours that spoke of an unhappy and insecure childhood. Harry always took part in whatever chores were going, despite their assurances that he didn’t need to. He knew his way around a kitchen, although he cooked without magic, and his cleaning skills were even more exacting than Molly’s. Whenever they were in a family group he would fade into the background, trying not to be noticed - and when he was noticed, there was always that look that said he expected to be sent away. He also seemed to stiffen when someone touched him, and it was obvious to them both that hugs and pats had been very rare. The one time he’d injured himself, tripping over Fred’s broom and skinning both hands thoroughly, he’d simply disappeared into the bathroom to clean and tend to the cuts himself, and Molly had to fish him out so she could do it. Harry hadn’t known quite what to do with himself.
Ron had calmed down, and was wiping his face defiantly. Arthur squeezed him one more time and then loosened his hold, withdrawing his grim stare from the wall to offer his son a rather washed out smile. As much as he’d like to storm the Dursley’s home and demand explanations, he knew that they’d have to be content with making Harry feel as welcome and safe as they could.
“We can’t change the past, son,” he said firmly, “But we can make sure that Harry is welcomed to our home, and that he feels he is a part of the family. Your mother and I have always tried to make him feel welcome, and I know that you and Ginny have too. We’ll just have to show him that he has a family here who wants him very much. Wash your face and hands before you come downstairs for tea.”
“Will we be seeing Professor Dumbledore tonight?” Ron asked, getting up obediently. Arthur was proud of his youngest son - he had a good heart and was growing into a fine man.
“I would say he’ll be here for tea,” his father nodded and left the room quietly, with Ron trailing behind. He went into the bathroom while his father continued down the stairs and washed his face and hands thoroughly, before staring in the mirror and trying to flatten his rather rumpled hair.
“You need a comb, young man,” the mirror informed him and Ron sighed, leaving the bathroom and heading down the stairs. Ginny was already setting the table while Molly got the last of their tea ready and his father spoke to Dumbledore.
“Hello, Professor,” Ron said quietly, and his Headmaster looked over at him, his red, green and yellow robes rather uncharacteristically rumpled.
“Good evening Mr Weasley,” Dumbledore replied, “I understand young Harry was sleeping peacefully when you left him?”
“Yes sir,” Ron nodded and went to help Ginny. She was looking rather subdued, and Ron saw that she’d set a place for the Professor. He walked back and forth from the kitchen with the food his mother had prepared while Ginny fetched drinks for them all. The adults joined them at the table and for a few minutes the conversation concerned itself with requests such as ‘pass the salad please’.
“Professor, what happens now?” Ron asked when they had all been served, “Did the Dursley’s…”
“The information that Harry gave me was most complete,” Dumbledore said heavily, “They were unable to deny the truth. I have removed his belongings from their house, and he will be spending the summer elsewhere.”
“Not here?” Ginny looked up from her plate, and glanced at her mother, “But I thought…”
“Unfortunately the protective charm that the Dursley’s reinforced each year by housing Harry over the summer has been irrevocably broken. I am afraid that it is only a matter of time before the Daily Prophet discovers Harry’s presence at St Mungo’s, and makes their report, though I will do my best to prevent that. Lord Voldemort will undoubtedly know what this means and the first place he will seek Mr Potter is here. For his safety and your own, it would be better that Harry does not reside here for the summer.”
“But Albus! You can’t send him to Grimmauld Place! The memories alone…” Molly protested, and Arthur nodded his agreement. Harry would be just as unhappy in his godfathers’ house as he was with the Muggles. He put his fork down and added his support to his wife’s argument.
“We’ll increase the security on the house and do whatever else you think best, but Molly and I both want Harry here, Dumbledore. We’ll send Ginny to her Aunt’s for the holiday’s and Ron…”
“No way! I’m with Harry. No matter where he goes this summer,” Ron vetoed that idea in a flash, and braced himself for the argument he knew would follow. Harry would not spend any more time alone, and if anyone wanted to say otherwise they’d have the fight of their lives on their hands. He was sixteen now, and while he would obey his parents rules whilst under their roof, a man had to take a stand sometime. Molly was glaring at him, but Dumbledore spoke first.
“That would solve a problem for me,” his voice silenced Molly before she could rebuke Ron’s bad manners, “I was going to house Harry at Hogwarts for the summer. If young Mr Weasley here is willing to stay with his friend, that would relieve my mind considerably.”
“Hogwarts?” Molly asked, and Ron bit back a groan. They’d be stuck with Filch and Mrs Norris he was sure, though on the bright side maybe they could spend some of their time with Hagrid.
“There are always several of the teachers in residence over the holidays, as they prepare for the new school year, and it is much more secure than Grimmauld place. With the death of Sirius, the house will eventually belong to Harry - until his twenty-first birthday it is held in trust for him. However, I quite agree with Molly that Harry should not be made to spend his summer there when his loss is so fresh in his mind. There is also the problem of Kreacher - the house elf has disappeared, presumably to go to Narcissa Malfoy - the next closest relative of the Black family. He will undoubtedly spill as many of the Order’s secrets as he can. His dislike of us all was plain from the start.”
“So, when is Harry going to Hogwarts?” Ron asked, “Should I send Hedwig there now?”
“He will spend another three days in St Mungo’s, and I will arrange a port key to take him to the school from there. It would be best if you travelled with him Ron, and send your trunks on by Floo network. You should send both owls on then,” Dumbledore replied, “Provided of course, that your parents agree.”
“Of course we do,” Arthur said firmly, holding his wife’s gaze, “We don’t want Harry to be alone for another summer.”
There was a slight pause, then Molly nodded her agreement, looking unhappy. She had wanted Harry with them to give him the care and attention he had never received - a bit of spoiling to give him happier memories of family than the ones he’d grown up with.
“Is Harry ever going to have go back to the Dursley’s?” Ginny asked, and Dumbledore shook his head.
“I have filed for an order of Separation for him with the Ministry. Next summer we will have to consider very carefully where he will reside. But there is time enough for that later,” Dumbledore put his knife and fork down across his empty plate and beamed at Molly, complimenting her cooking. Ron got up to help clear away while his mother got the pudding ready.
“Professor, will we be able to go to Diagon Alley? I don’t have my school supplies yet,” Ron frowned in thought, “In fact, we don’t even have our OWL results either, so we won’t know what to get.”
“Your letters will find you at Hogwarts. As soon as the OWL results have arrived one of the Professors will take you to Diagon Alley for your supplies - we hope to put the Death Eaters off your scents by sending you much earlier than anyone can expect,” Dumbledore replied firmly, “Also, there is the small problem of Harry’s clothes. I am no longer inclined to allow him to wear his cousins cast offs, though there was nothing we could do about it before.”
“I can get him some clothes before he leaves St Mungo’s,” Molly spoke up determinedly, and Dumbledore nodded, holding up a hand.
“Only one or two changes, please Molly. I feel that Harry should be given the opportunity to buy something of his own,” he informed her, “Professor McGonagal is at the school at this very moment, and she will be instructing Harry for Apparate Licence. Once he has passed I thought he might like to spend some time in Muggle London. Ron will of course accompany him, and no Death Eater would think to search him out there.”
Ron hid a small grin of excitement. He’d inherited his father’s fascination with Muggles, and spending the day in their world - even shopping for clothes, which he usually hated - would be something of a treat. And for once, Harry would be able to show off his knowledge of the Muggle world, rather than relying on Ron for help deciphering the Wizard one.
Two very large hands reached out and steadied Harry as the portkey released him. Harry leaned into the grip gratefully, still rather unsteady on his feet, and not all that keen to fall over onto the hard stone flags outside the Great Hall. He looked up into concerned dark eyes and summoned a smile for the half-giant.
“Hello Hagrid,” he reached out and patted the other man’s chest lightly. He’d only been out of bed for a few hours, and desperately wanted to get back into it. Ron had been acting rather strangely during his visits to Harry in St Mungo’s, and Harry was worried that their friendship was forever ruined now that Ron knew how the Dursley’s had been treating him. After all, if they thought he wasn’t good enough for them to want to keep around, why would Ron? He’d been horrified when Ron had told him that he was coming to Hogwarts to keep Harry company over the summer. His friend had put himself back into the line of fire - Harry knew that the Daily Prophet had been sniffing around the recent events, which meant that Voldemort would be able to figure out exactly what had happened and come after him again. Ron would just have to be persuaded to leave Harry and go home.
He was brought back to the present when Hagrid pulled him into a very careful hug, patting his back very lightly. He was treating Harry as if he was made of the finest bone china, a rather rare thing for Hagrid, who chose to express his affection in rougher touches.
“Hello Harry,” even his greeting was subdued, “I’m so sorry lad…”
“Not your fault,” Harry’s voice was rather muffled, but he returned the hug as hard as he could and then let go, waiting for Hagrid to release him as well. The groundskeeper did so with a final, careful pat and turned to greet Ron. Harry looked around, grateful that Hagrid had been the only one waiting to greet them, then tuned back into the conversation when Ron tugged on his elbow.
“Come on, we’ll go up to the Griffindor dorms. Hagrid was saying that Hedwig is already here in the owlry; she’ll want to see you.”
Harry waved goodbye to Hagrid and started trudging up the stairs. Though he only felt the slightest of twinges in his body, he was still quite tired as sleeping in St Mungo’s had been very difficult. Healers and Nurses kept coming in to check on him, disturbing his sleep, and there had been a lot of strange noises at night.
He felt Ron reach out and cup his elbow a little hesitantly, but knew that if he jerked away from the support he’d likely fall over again. It was the little gestures like this that Harry knew he would miss the most. Ron was not the most demonstrative person, but since he’d found Harry in the Dursley’s front hall he’d been reaching out and touching more often. Harry had rarely experienced friendly touch, and each one warmed him in a most indescribable manner.
“Sorry,” Harry muttered as they reached the floor that their dorm was on and Ron had to take even more of his weight. Harry was puffing pretty hard and it felt like he’d just run a few laps around the castle wearing lead boots.
“Yeah, well, you just spent three days in bed. You’ll get your energy back,” Ron sympathised, “We’ll have plenty of time to get back into training for Quidditch too. I’ve decided to try out for Keeper again this year.”
They walked slowly along the corridor towards the Fat Lady. She was watching them rather sympathetically and Ron seemed to realise that neither of them knew the correct password just as they reached her portrait. He really didn’t want to drag an already exhausted Harry around the castle looking for a teacher, nor did he want to leave Harry sitting alone in the corridor while he went searching alone. Luckily the Fat Lady solved this dilemma for them.
“The password is ‘friendship’ dears,” she told them, and Ron controlled the urge to gape at her in astonishment. She swung forward before they could reply and he helped his friend through the portrait hole. Harry pulled free once they were inside and headed for an armchair by the empty fireplace. It was time to put his plan into action.
“Look, Ron,” he said once he’d managed to sit down, “I’ve been thinking.”
“Yeah?” Ron flopped down onto the couch nearby and raised his eyebrows at him. Harry had to control a surge of affection for his friend, sprawled in a ratty blue robe and worn jeans, utterly comfortable and comforting. Utterly loveable.
“Yeah,” Harry swallowed, “I’d really rather you didn’t stay here this summer.”
Ron stared at him in astonishment, the back of his neck flushing just a little bit pink.
“Yeah,” Harry continued doggedly, “I just want to be alone, alright?”
“Harry, last summer you complained that you were left alone and out of the loop,” Ron pointed out, a hurt look on his face, “I thought…”
“You thought wrong,” Harry interrupted, “Look, I just don’t want you here. You know that Dumbledore is worried that Voldemort… stop flinching!… will have another go at me! I’ll be stuck in the castle all summer and there’s no point in you staying here. I don’t want you to. Go home.”
The look on Ron’s face was heartbreaking, and Harry immediately felt guilty that he’d caused it, but he stuck to his guns. If Ron was killed, Harry wouldn’t survive it; and he didn’t want to see Ron hurt either. Ron was the most important person in Harry’s world, always had been to some extent, and he couldn’t risk losing him to the most evil Wizard alive.
“No,” Ron replied after a moment, “You’re not staying here alone. If this is about the Dursley’s…”
“It’s not!” Harry swallowed hard at the name, “I just don’t want you here!”
“Tough,” Ron’s face hardened and he got up from the couch, folding his arms as he started to pace, “I’m not leaving you alone all summer.”
“You’ll be in danger!” Harry was losing it, he knew. Bellowing at Ron would not persuade his friend to leave, and Harry couldn’t bear to take the next step of destroying their friendship. He wasn’t strong enough and he hated himself for it.
“So will you!” Ron snapped back, “And two of us stand a better chance than one, you know that!”
“Why won’t you just leave me!” Harry cried in frustration and Ron swung around with a wild look on his face.
“Because I love you, you idiot!”
Silence like a scream fell on the common room and the two teens stared at each other, one horrified, the other barely daring to breathe lest the words be taken back. Before Harry could even blink, Ron turned green and bolted for the nearest toilet, slamming the door behind him and locking it. Harry could hear his friend throwing up violently, and bit back a sob.
Despite his best intentions he had ruined any chance of friendship with Ron, let alone something he’d never named yet yearned for with all his being. His desire to see his friend safe and happy had backfired horribly. The look on Ron’s face as he ran from the room confirmed that.
The silence in the common room was unbroken, even by sounds from the toilet where Ron was currently hiding. Harry stared at the armchair opposite him, his mind whirling. After a very long while he stirred in his chair and pulled his wand out of the pocket of his borrowed robe. He used a summoning charm to fetch parchment, quill and ink, too unsteady to stand and get them himself. Leaning forward dizzily he picked up the quill and started writing, hoping that he could salvage something of their friendship.
Once the ink was dry Harry folded the letter carefully and staggered to his feet. He weaved his way rather drunkenly to the toilet and thumped down onto his knees outside the door. Carefully he pushed the parchment under the door and then crawled over to lean on the opposite wall. Harry drew his knees up to his chest and waited patiently for some kind of sign from Ron.
Ron thumped his fist onto the edge of the toilet as his breakfast and dinner left him behind. His mind was shouting ‘stupid, stupid, stupid’ at him in an endless litany and he heaved a few more times before sitting back. Why had he said that? Why had he shouted those words at his best friend?
That they were true was not something that Ron could deny, or even take back. He loved Harry with all his heart and soul, but he’d never meant to tell the man! Harry liked girls, hell, he’d dated Cho Chang last year, on and off. Ron thought girls were all right, but it was boys he noticed more, and Harry he’d noticed the most. Reaching up with a shaky hand, Ron flushed the toilet and wiped his mouth absently with his hand. Once he was sure he wouldn’t throw up again he staggered upright and went to wash his face and mouth properly. He turned off the tap and stared gloomily into the mirror above the sink.
A rather pale, red-haired and freckled teen stared back at him. Ron examined his face carefully and sighed. He was the first to admit that he wasn’t the most attractive boy on the planet - though he wasn’t ugly either. He was thin, gawky and going through one of those growth spurts that left him awkward and feeling rather ungainly. Harry on the other hand was quite handsome. He had the sort of careless grace and unconscious good looks that would have been insufferable if he’d acted like he knew about them. Ron was convinced that Harry didn’t know how good looking he was, and had often wished he could tell him. Part of that ignorance, Ron now knew, was the Dursley’s fault. They’d never made an effort to find anything positive about their nephew, and had made sure he knew it.
Ron turned away from the mirror and leaned back on the sink, staring down at his scuffed trainers. The problem wasn’t how attractive and … well, loveable… he found Harry, the problem was that Harry didn’t feel the same way about him. Now that his friend knew, would he be able to stay Ron’s friend, or would he break all ties and turn his back on him? Ron bit his lip and brooded over the question, unable to come up with an answer at all. He knew exactly what it was he liked about Harry, but he’d never really figured out why Harry seemed to like him.
Ron came back to himself with a start and realised that quite a bit of time had passed while he brooded in the toilet. Resolving to worry about it later and go see what could be salvaged from their friendship now, Ron pushed off from the basin and crossed to the door. As he was reaching to open it he spotted the parchment that had been slid inside with his name on it. He bent to pick it up, marvelling he hadn’t noticed it before. Leaning against the door, Ron unfolded the parchment and began to read. Harry’s writing was rather shaky, but Ron was very familiar with the peculiarities of his friends’ penmanship and had no trouble deciphering it.
You were the first friend I ever had in my life, and I’m really hoping right now that you still are my friend, despite what I’m about to tell you.
This is really hard… you know how bad I am at speeches, and writing it doesn’t make it any easier.
I wanted to tell you why I want you to leave me alone here, but I was so afraid that you would be angry with me. You were angry anyway, but Ron, I had to see you safely away from Voldemort’s biggest target. You see, I’ve lost so many people in my life - pathetic as it sounds - and if I lost you too I would never recover from it. Everyone expects me to be the Boy Who Lived, and just bear up under everything, like a good little boy, but almost losing you to those brains really opened my eyes.
I’ve always felt sick when you get hurt, even in our first year at Hogwarts when McGonagal’s chess set nearly killed you. I wanted to chuck it all in then, and probably would have if Hermoine hadn’t been there to take care of you. Each year you’ve gone into danger with me and each year it gets harder and harder for me to see you hurt. You see if you died it would kill me.
I mean it, Ron. I’d die with you. You are all I have in the world, especially now that Sirius is gone. I could barely stand to see the bandages on your arms last term. I felt like I should have begged your forgiveness - I nearly did, except I knew it would embarrass you.
You’re my best friend, the first one I ever made in my whole life, and I need your friendship more than I can ever say. There’s only one problem. Sometimes I want more, more than I thought you could ever give me. I know I don’t deserve you, but anything you can give me I’ll be grateful for. You see, the people that love me keep leaving me behind, and the ones that were supposed to love me threw me away.
Please don’t take it back.
Please don’t throw me away.
I love you too.
Ron wiped his face absently and dried his hand on his robe. As love letters went this was nigh on perfect, and he knew that Harry would probably never write him another one. They just weren’t those sort of people. He refolded the note and placed it securely in his robes before unlocking and opening the door.
Harry was crouched on the floor opposite, trembling, his face white, and when Ron reached him, ice cold. Tearful eyes found Ron’s face and bloodless lips parted, trying to speak. Ron shushed him, wrapping his arms around his friend and rocking them back and forth, like his father had him only a few days ago.
“Shh, Harry,” Ron crooned, “It’s ok mate. We’re ok. I’m not leaving you and we’re still friends I promise. We’ll work it all out.”
Freezing hands knotted in Ron’s robe and Harry made a croaking noise that Ron shushed absently. After a long moment he pulled Harry to his feet and practically carried him upstairs to the dorm. Someone had laid out pyjamas and Ron started stripping his best friend matter-of-factly, rubbing his arms briskly to warm him up before helping him into the pyjamas and tucking him into bed. Harry had a pretty good grip on Ron’s fingers and the red head settled against the headboard, rubbing his thumb over his friends’ knuckles until the grip loosened and Harry went to sleep.
Dobby woke them with breakfast. At some time during the night Ron had slipped down on the bed to lie with an arm over Harry’s waist. They were cuddled together, though the room was warm, and their fingers were tangled together.
“Master Harry sir!” Dobby squeaked happily, “Dobby has your breakfast! Dobby has yours too, Master Wheezy.”
“Good morning,” Ron grinned at the confused expression on Harry’s face, “Time to face the day. You must be starved - you missed tea last night.”
“So did you,” Harry pointed out tentatively and Ron’s stomach growled in reply. The two laughed and sat up, Dobby beaming at them all the while. Once they had settled side by side on Harry’s bed - Ron still fully dressed and sitting on top of the blankets - Dobby levitated the magically expanded tray onto their laps.
“Kippers! Thanks Dobby!” Ron exclaimed, lifting the cover off the plate in front of him. Harry still seemed a little stunned and Ron took the cover off his plate for him. Harry’s favourite breakfast of chipolatas and scrambled eggs was revealed and he roused himself to thank the house elf for his kindness.
“It is Dobby’s pleasure, sirs,” Dobby nodded emphatically, “Dobby has been given an enormous honour by Professor Dumbledore! Dobby is to be Master Harry and Master Wheezy’s elf for the summer!”
Ron reflected that Dumbledore had probably done this to avoid trouble with the other house elves. Dobby was as devoted to Harry as ever - and would devote as much time to him as he could, despite his other chores. Better to be given official permission by his employer than cause the elf to feel that he needed to punish himself for the divided loyalties. Of course, if Hermoine ever found out, she’d have a fit. She was still trying to free the house elves.
“That’s really great news, Dobby,” Harry took a deep breath, seeming to wake up properly. He picked up his fork and sampled the eggs, while Ron took a couple of pieces of toast from the rack. He buttered them both and put one on Harry’s plate with a rather pointed look. His mother had issued Ron with strict instructions to ensure his friend ate well and rested. Ron wasn’t about to defy her.
“Yeah, Dobby. Harry needs a bit of care at the moment, and having you in charge of his meals will be a real help,” Ron added his two Knuts worth. Instead of smiling in pleasure, Dobby’s eyes filled with big tears.
“Dobby!” Harry exclaimed as the elf burst into noisy sobs. Ron wondered what he had said to make the elf so upset. He’d thought he was paying the elf a compliment.
“Oh sir! Dobby has heard of the treachery Master Harry suffered! Dobby remembers the trouble he got Master Harry into when Dobby was still a slave! This is all Dobby’s fault!”
“No it’s not, Dobby,” Harry gave Ron a rather desperate look and Ron wriggled out from under the tray, swallowing his mouthful hastily and crouching down in front of the sobbing elf. He patted Dobby’s shoulder gingerly and fished around for a tissue to offer so the elf could dry his tears.
“Dobby, the Muggles Harry lived with treated him the way they did because of who they were, not because of anything Harry, or you or I did. It’s not your fault. It’s theirs,” Ron said rather awkwardly. Dobby hiccupped several times and wiped his eyes timidly.
“Master Wheezy is sure?” he asked rather pathetically, and Ron nodded emphatically.
“I am,” he said in his best Prefect voice. Dobby looked over at Harry, who nodded as well and the elf straightened up, blowing his nose and tucking the tissue into the bright green bike shorts he was wearing. They were on the baggy side and clashed rather violently with the neon blue singlet he had found. He was also wearing the usual mismatched socks, one covered in flying brooms, and the other the rather lumpy black sock that Harry had given him as a Christmas present years ago.
“Master Wheezy’s breakfast will get cold,” he patted the hand that Ron still had on his shoulder, and Ron took that as his cue to get back on the bed and finish his kippers, “Dobby will be back for the tray, sirs, and to tidy the room. Professor McGonagal has also asked Dobby to pass on a message. Professor McGonagal would like to see Master Harry and Master Wheezy in her study at ten o’clock.”
“We’ll be there, thanks Dobby,” Harry nodded and the elf offered him a rather wan smile before leaving the room, shutting the door quietly behind him. Ron wriggled back under the tray and addressed himself to his breakfast again. After a few minutes he became aware of Harry’s sidelong glances, and turned to look at his friend. Ron was pretty sure Harry was wondering if they still had a friendship at all, and put his friend’s mind at rest the best way he knew how. Taking out the note and holding it up so Harry could see it, Ron took his friend’s hand and smiled.
“You could never want more than I can give, and I’m never throwing you away. You’re stuck with me now, Potter.”
“Good,” Harry whispered, “Couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather be stuck with.”
Ron chuckled, stowed the note away carefully again and went back to his breakfast. They’d have to hurry if they were going to be on time for McGonagal and they both needed showers at the very least.
Breakfast passed for Harry in a happy daze. Ron hadn’t rejected him, or taken back his words. They were still friends, and from what Ron had said, there was a chance that they’d be more. Ron had to pull him along to the bathroom and remind him to do the littlest things. He’d worried that Ron would get cross about that, but his friend kept giving him a little grin. Harry realised why when he caught sight of himself in the mirror - he had the dopiest look on his face, a kind of soft expression. As happy as he was he didn’t want to walk into McGonagal’s study looking like that - she’d have him up to Madam Pomfrey in a flash.
Ron had laid out a new shaving kit. At fifteen he’d only needed to shave once a week, and last year he’d been using a safety razor and foam. The kit he balanced on the hand basin was obviously new. The leather bag was made of a maroon hide, giving Harry a clue as to who had given Ron the gift, and from it he drew soap, a shaving brush and a straight razor. From the glimpse Harry got inside the bag there was also a strop - a leather strip that Ron could sharpen the razor on.
“Birthday present from Dad,” Ron answered his unspoken question, “He’s given one to all of us boys when we turn sixteen - goodness knows what he’ll get for Ginny.”
“Unless she uses it for her legs,” Harry said without thinking and Ron choked on his lather with laughter. Harry laughed too, relieved that he hadn’t ruined things. He let Ron shoo him out of the bathroom and went to get dressed, discovering that he had only a few changes of clothes and that they were all in the Wizard styles.
Ron whistled in surprise when he caught sight of Harry in his robes and rather formal shirt, waistcoat and trousers. There was even a new pair of shoes that buttoned up along the sides. Harry actually liked the change of style, though he’d struggled with the unfamiliar fastenings on the shoes, trousers and robes. He was already planning to get some Muggle clothes as well, though he’d have to ask permission first.
“Mum,” Ron shook his head, “Dumbledore only brought your school stuff along - he thought you mightn’t want the reminders from your other clothes, though I think he’s got the Weasley jumpers for you. Mum said she’d buy you some new stuff. You look very smart, Harry.”
“Thanks,” Harry blushed a little, unsure of accepting the compliment and relieved when Ron didn’t push things. They tidied up hurriedly, despite knowing that Dobby would be more than willing to clean the room from top to bottom.
“How are you feeling today?” Ron asked as they hurried down the stairs, “You seem a bit livelier.”
“I feel a lot better. I was just so tired when we got here…” Harry trailed off and Ron grunted.
“Yeah, I imagine that St Mungo’s is a rotten place to sleep,” he sympathised, “It was hard enough learning to sleep through Dean’s snores in our first year.”
Harry laughed, and reached out to knock on the study door. Professor McGonagal called permission to enter and Harry pushed the door open, going in first. McGonagal was wearing her usual robes and bun, her eyes sweeping Harry from head to toe in a very piercing look. She smiled at him quite kindly and waved them both to seats.
“I like the new robes, Mr Potter,” she said gently, “You look quite smart.”
Ron stifled a chuckle and Harry flushed a little. He had been dreading her first remarks, not wanting to have to deal with any memories of the past fortnight right now. She seemed to have realised that and he was grateful for her discretion.
“Thank you, Professor,” he replied, wishing he could nudge his friend before they got into trouble. It may have been the summer holidays, but Harry knew that their Head of House would have as little patience for silly behaviour as she did during school hours. Thankfully Ron sat up properly and fixed a look of polite inquiry upon their teacher.
“I’ll come straight to the point, Harry,” she said quietly, “You’re sixteen in two weeks time, and as you know that makes you of age in the Wizarding world. At that time you are eligible for your licence to Apparate. Normally, you’d go to the Ministry for your test, but Professor Dumbledore has arranged for me to test you on the theory and practical here.”
“Thanks Professor!” Harry exclaimed. He had forgotten about that aspect of turning sixteen and glanced at Ron, realising he must have passed his test if he had been at the Dursley’s.
“Once you have passed - and I expect you to work very hard Mr Potter, and pass on your first attempt - you will be allowed to visit Muggle London for a day to procure for yourself a few more personal items. I am aware that your… wardrobe is limited at the moment. Mr Weasley will accompany you, and you will of course take all the usual precautions. Your OWL results will be here in three weeks time, after which Professor Flitwick has agreed to take you to Diagon Alley to procure your school supplies for your sixth year. With the exception of those two excursions, you will remain on school property at all times, and you will not leave the castle after seven at night. Is that perfectly clear boys?”
“Yes Professor,” Harry said, with Ron chorusing along. Harry was determined to be on his best behaviour for the rest of the holidays. He didn’t want to risk being sent back to Privet Drive next year.
“Very well,” McGonagal stood, “I have here the theory that you need to learn, Mr Potter. You will read it over very carefully today and I will test your understanding of it tomorrow at ten, here. We will have a lesson every morning until dinner and then you will be free for the rest of the day. Mr Weasley, you will report to Hagrid in the mornings, I am told he has a few chores he could use your assistance in.”
“Yes, Professor,” Ron said softly. Harry took the book that McGonagal was holding out and they left. Ron was giving Harry a dark look, and Harry managed to keep the chuckles under control until the door was closed.
“He’ll have me mucking out blast ended skrewts or something,” Ron groaned, playing it up, “At least you get to sit inside with McGonagal.”
“Yeah, getting tutored for a test that I’m not allowed to fail,” Harry reminded him and they grinned at each other.
They had asked Dobby where the teachers ate their meals, and upon being informed that they ate together in the Great Hall, both teens decided to join them, though they were going to sit at the Griffindor table. Harry’s conscience was still tweaking him about making Dobby do extra work, and Ron didn’t care where they ate as long as they did. He was going through a ‘bottomless pit’ phase when it came to food, and as Harry was under strict orders to put on a few stone they found their end of the table well stocked.
They had spent most of yesterday in a complex dance around each other, testing the waters and reaffirming their friendship. Harry had also been studying ‘A beginners guide to Apparating and Disapparating’ and Ron had helped test him on it. Last night Harry had looked at Ron very shyly before getting into his own bed. Ron had grabbed his own pillow and climbed in with Harry matter-of-factly. Neither one had said anything beyond goodnight, and they’d woken the next morning spooned together, fingers tangled across Harry’s stomach.
Ron had taken the time last night to send Pigwidgeon to the Daily Prophet with a subscription notice, and the owl arrived as the teens entered the Great Hall. Harry was wearing a different coloured shirt under the waistcoat today - a brilliant shimmering green that Ron secretly admired on his friend.
“I’ll go you halves on the subscription,” Harry offered and Ron accepted readily enough, telling his friend that he could pay tomorrow. They pushed their plates to one side and put the paper on the table between them, taking it in turns to turn the page while the other snatched a hasty bite or commented on an article they’d just read. After almost a month, the hysteria about Voldemort had died down, and although a few rumours and speculative pieces were included in today’s paper, there was nothing really alarming.
Ron folded the paper and shoved it into his robe as Harry finished the last sip of his tea. They got up and headed out of the Great Hall, splitting up to go to their respective tasks. Ron walked out of the front doors into the bright sunlight and walked quickly down the path that led to Hagrid’s hut. The half giant was waiting by his hut, with Fang sitting at his feet. When the boarhound spotted Ron he leapt up, barking and ran to greet the red headed teen.
“Alrigh’ then, Ron?” Hagrid called in greeting and Ron pushed the dog off his chest, walking over to the groundskeeper. He smiled up at the man and nodded.
“Yeah, you?” he asked and Hagrid nodded in reply. He hesitated and then asked in a positively diffident tone,
Ron beamed up at him, knowing that Harry held a special place in Hagrid’s heart. Hagrid had rescued Harry as a baby, and then fetched him from the Dursley’s when he was eleven. Hagrid had been Harry’s first contact with the Wizarding world, and he seemed to have quite a soft spot for the dark haired teen.
“He’s well enough. He had a lot more energy this morning, and he seemed happier,” Ron assured the other man, and Hagrid’s face cleared up a bit. He nodded, patted Ron on the shoulder hard enough to make him almost lose his balance and turned to grab a couple of tools from where they were leaning against his hut.
“Righ’, well then, we’d better ge’ to work,” Hagrid rumbled, “We’re wokin’ in th’ vegetable patch today. I need yer to hoe the beans. I spoke to Professor Dumbledore, an’ he’s agreed yer should get paid a stipend fer yer work.”
“Really? Brilliant!” Ron exclaimed, and followed Hagrid to the bean patch.
Their days took on a steady pattern. They would read the paper together over breakfast, split up to go to their respective assignments, meet again at dinner and then spend the afternoon flying around the castle grounds on their brooms, visiting with Hagrid, and - in Harry’s case - studying the theory set by McGonagal. Evenings were spent in the common room, playing chess or cards or any other number of games that sat around the room. Ron would join Harry in bed each night and they would wake the next day spooned together and flushed with sleep. Beyond the touches they shared during the day - usually a finger hooking with a finger, and sometimes Ron would pull Harry into a hug - their relationship had progressed no further. Harry was still very skittish about being touched, and Ron knew better than to push him into an intimacy he wasn’t ready for. That would kill their friendship for sure, and neither teen wanted that.
On the evening of Harry’s sixteenth birthday, Ron sent Pigwidgeon to Gringotts with his holiday earnings and a request they be converted to Muggle money. Hedwig went as well, with a letter from Harry, asking the Goblins to make a withdrawal for him in Muggle currency. Both of them were looking forward to the day they would be allowed to go shopping in Muggle London, and Harry was planning a surprise for Ron.
Harry’s sixteenth birthday started with a difference. He’d never been woken with a kiss before, but that was how Ron chose to start the day, dropping chaste kisses on Harry’s face until he woke, then following with a very gentle kiss to the lips as well. He didn’t try anything fancy; all too aware that Harry had described his first kisses with Cho Chang as ‘wet’.
“Happy birthday, Harry,” Ron smiled and relaxed when Harry’s answering smile lit up his whole face. He craned his neck up and Ron obliged him with another warm press of lips before pulling back and squeezing the hand he held. Harry looked at their joined hands and smiled a little crookedly.
“We always seem to end up like this,” he waved their hands in clarification and Ron raised his eyebrows.
“Does that bother you?” he asked curiously, and Harry shook his head, a slight flush creeping over his cheeks. He’d gained some colour during their broom flights over the last few weeks, though he wasn’t as brown as Ron, who spent the majority of the day outside.
“It’s nice,” Harry said shyly and Ron nodded, kissing his friend on the cheek before letting go and rolling out of bed.
“It is,” he agreed, “Kind of cosy.”
Harry got up too, and they hurried through their morning baths, both teens shaving before getting dressed. Ron had put out the green shirt he liked Harry in so much, and Harry put it on without comment, pleased that his friend had chosen to tell him, albeit wordlessly, that he looked good in that. Neither boy was likely to win awards for their compliments and sentimental behaviour - they had worked hard to re-establish the easy friendship that they’d built for the last five years, and were not inclined to jeopardise that with atypical behaviours.
The usual owl arrived with the morning paper, and Ron paid it while Harry piled scrambled eggs and bacon onto slices of toast - food that could be eaten with one hand while they read the paper. They flicked through the main stories - Fudge was calling for support for some kind of reserve scheme to back up the Auror’s and his main opponent was calling it an overt attempt to raise a private army - when an unfamiliar owl landed on the paper and hooted at Harry.
“What’s this?” he asked Ron, and untied the cylinder that the owl had strapped on it’s back. The brown wrapping clearly had his name on it, and Ron fished in the pockets of his robe for a moment before handing Harry an envelope. The owl took off without waiting for payment and Harry dropped the parcel on the table and opened the envelope.
There was a birthday card inside and Harry grinned at his friend.
“Is this my present, then?” he asked, pointing at the cylinder. Ron nodded, grinning back. Harry opened the parcel eagerly and stared at the glossy magazine.
“You’ve got a years subscription,” Ron told his friend, “I thought you’d like it.”
The ‘World of Quidditch’ magazine boasted a picture of the Peru Quidditch team posing with some school kids in various items of kit. Articles were also being touted on the front cover, including one about the Chuddley Cannons, and the latest controversy over the new guidelines for referees. Harry flipped through a few pages and then turned to grin at the now nervous friend beside him.
“It’s brilliant,” Harry told him, “Thanks, Ron. I’d never have thought of a present like this.”
“Whew! I thought you were mad,” Ron exaggerated his relief and Harry laughed, tucking the card inside the front cover, and the magazine inside his robes. They went back to the paper, and were discussing the latest Quidditch scores - the game was played year round - when Professor Sinistra left the staff table and wished Harry a happy birthday on her way out.
“Thank you!” Harry was rather startled, but managed a smile and wave for the Astronomy teacher. Professor McGonagal finished her morning cup of tea and came down to where they were sitting as well.
“Happy birthday, Mr Potter,” she offered a rare smile, “Are you ready to take your test this morning?”
“I thought I’d have to wait until tomorrow,” Harry glanced at his friend, and Ron shook his head.
“You’re sixteen today - I only waited until the day after because mum and dad insisted,” he told his friend, “Good luck, mate.”
“Thanks,” Harry nodded and followed the Transfiguration mistress out of the Great Hall. Ron grinned and folded the newspaper back up, sticking it inside his robes and getting up from the table. Hagrid stuck his head around the door and Ron waved him in.
“The coast is clear, Hagrid,” he called. The plates disappeared from the tables, and Dobby trotted in behind Hagrid, beaming over his part in the birthday surprise. He waved a shy hello to Ron who smiled kindly and waved back. He knew that Harry was Dobby’s favourite and didn’t mind it too much. The elf was a little more relaxed with him, and they were co-conspirators when it came to taking care of Harry.
“He’s off for his test, then?” Hagrid asked and Ron nodded, looking around at the Hall. The usual house banners and so on had been taken down, presumably for cleaning, making it seem almost barren.
“Righ’ then,” Hagrid rubbed his hands together, “We’ll start with one o’ these tables.”
“Tables?” Ron asked, “I thought we were having the party here?”
“Nonsense,” Hagrid shook his head, “There’s perfectly good weather outside, an’ it’s a sight more cheerful to boot! We’ll set up in the courtyard by the greenhouses - the one with the fountain. It gets good sun and there’s a nice breeze coming off th’ lake. Grab an end, Ron.”
“Uh,” Ron eyed the large and undoubtedly heavy table and pulled his wand out. He was grateful that the house tables were not all one piece but several pieces put end to end. Hagrid rolled his eyes, but shifted to pick up one end while Ron stood at the other. That meant that Ron would be walking backwards, but seeing as he wasn’t actually lifting anything he didn’t mind too much.
Ron’s end of the table lifted up gently and he backed away, coaxing the table to follow him out the doors and along the passages. Ron could see that Dobby had elevated a couple of the benches and was walking along behind them. Ten minutes later they had the table set up, and Hagrid had wrestled one of the staff chairs out for Harry to sit on at the head of the table. The half giant would sit opposite him at the other end - not being built for sitting on benches.
Dobby conjured up some bunting - flowers and vines twisted together to hang on the stonework - and Ron got started on that while Hagrid hung a banner that read ‘happy birthday!’ and shot off little fireworks at random intervals while the letters changed colour. Dobby laid the table carefully, spreading a cream tablecloth over its glossy surface and then adding the place settings with fancy folded cream napkins. Ron was relieved to see that the house elf had resisted the temptation to plaster Harry’s face over everything. His friend had told him about the Christmas decorations last year in the Room of Requirement when Ron found an ornament in the corner of their practice room.
“When is everyone arriving?” Ron asked as Hagrid came to help him finish up the last of the bunting.
“They’ll be here at twelve. Yer mum and dad had to pick up Hermoine first,” he grunted, “There, tha’ ought to hold it. The twins are coming along too, and Ginny o’ course. I think yer brother Bill will be droppin’ by as well. Professor McGonagal, and Remus Lupin will be here too.”
“Dinner for twelve, then,” Ron stood back and admired their work. The normally plain courtyard had been transformed into a welcoming setting for a birthday party. He turned and looked over at the table before smiling at Dobby, who was polishing crystal glasses.
“That looks smashing, Dobby,” he complimented the elf, “Harry will be really pleased.”
Dobby positively beamed at him, and seemed to swell a size in happiness. Ron reflected that it took so little to make the elf happy - rather like Harry - and made a mental note to try and do it more often. He checked his watch - the decorations and such had taken only two hours - and nodded to Hagrid as he went to meet Harry outside Professor McGonagal’s study. There were two hours to fill before he had to lure Harry out to the courtyard, and Ron had planned to spend them in Griffindor’s common room, playing chess.
“How did you go?” he asked the moment Harry stepped outside. He didn’t really need to ask, the grin on Harry’s face was enough of a clue to the results.
“I passed it,” his friend replied, “And we have the go ahead to spend tomorrow in Muggle London.”
“Excellent,” Ron rubbed his hands together, “Come on - we should go and see if the owls are back from Gringotts. You can tell me where we’re going.”
“Oh, no,” Harry chuckled, “That’s a surprise. I’ve got it all planned out.”
They were climbing the stairs now, and Ron eyed his friend with disfavour.
“Am I going to hate this?” he asked and Harry chuckled, glancing at him sideways. Ron shook his head and sighed the way a man who is being much put upon does. This earned him another chuckle and he followed in Harry’s wake happily. Harry hadn’t really laughed since he’d woken in the hospital, and Ron was relieved to see some sign of his friends spirit returning.
They stepped in through the portrait hole and Pigwidgeon immediately started fluttering around their heads, hooting wildly. It was flying a bit slower than usual, due to the pocket sized leather pouch tied firmly to its legs with the Gringotts seal stamped onto it. Hedwig was sitting more sedately on the back of an armchair, and while Ron leapt about, trying to catch his maniacal owl, Harry went to relieve her of her own burden. Ron peered inside at the strange paper notes the Goblins had provided and then shrugged. His friend would doubtless be able to guide him through the day. He took both pouches up and dropped them on the dresser in his dorm, returning to find Harry still standing by the armchair, stroking Hedwig with a pensive look on his face.
“What’s up, mate?” Ron put a hand on Harry’s arm and his friend half shrugged, not really meeting Ron’s eye. Ron waited patiently, rubbing his thumb along Harry’s arm, until his friend shifted, turned to face him and very slowly and hesitantly put his hands on Ron’s hips.
Ron smiled, his arms coming up easily to wrap around Harry’s waist. Harry leaned hesitantly into the hug, his head sheltering nervously on Ron’s shoulder. This was a big step, and Ron was pleased that Harry had reached out to him. He stood quietly, feeling the tension in Harry’s body slowly disappear as the pain he associated with being touched failed to appear. Ron moved one hand, rubbing it over the small of Harry’s back as his friend inched closer, seeking the warmth of Ron’s body. His hands crept timidly around Ron’s waist and clutched the back of his faded blue robe, plucking at the material nervously, then stilling. Harry heaved a big sigh and sagged a little, leaning into Ron, feeling his friend lean back, shifting their weight so they were in balance together and comfortable. The closeness and warmth was a little soporific and Harry let his eyes close, relaxing completely as Ron rubbed his back and held him.
“This is nice,” Ron murmured, pleasure lacing his voice. He felt Harry nod and smiled into the unruly black hair pressed against his cheek. There was nothing erotic about this act for him - it was simple companionship and trust, being offered and shared equally between them. Harry trusted him not to hurt him, and Ron trusted Harry to know where his limits lay.
Ron estimated they’d stood there for ten minutes before Harry sighed and very slowly pulled back. Ron let him go, smiling when his friend glanced up at him. Harry flushed a little and cleared his throat, shuffling his feet.
“Chess?” Ron suggested as if they hadn’t just taken a big step in trust together. Harry nodded, looking relieved that they weren’t going to talk about the hug and Ron gave him his best grin, going to the table and setting up the chess set that they’d left out yesterday.
Harry couldn’t describe - at least not without gibbering - how that hug with Ron had felt. He couldn’t even explain adequately why he’d done it. He’d been standing with Hedwig, petting her lightly and thinking about how different this birthday was when Ron had returned with a grin on his face. Harry had felt such a strong rush of affection for his friend that he’d reached out without thinking, and then panicked. Thankfully, Ron had just stood there, holding him so lightly that a deep breath would have broken his grip. The simple gift of that hug was more significant to Harry than all the gifts anyone had ever given him in the last five years combined.
The chess was a welcome distraction, because Ron was a master at the game and Harry needed to concentrate fully on what he was doing if he didn’t want to be slaughtered in the first five minutes. They were playing with Ron’s ancient set, and the pieces had finally started to trust Harry a little, though they still shouted advice at him now and then. They played two games, one after the other, and at ten past twelve - just as Ron’s rook was challenging Harry’s king to surrender - his friend leapt up and grabbed for Harry’s hand.
“We’ll be late for dinner,” Ron exclaimed, “Professor McGonagal will be after us!”
Harry let himself be pulled up and hurried along, glancing back as his king surrendered with a growl of defeat.
“You won again,” he informed Ron, who shook his head, clucking under his breath.
“Harry, Harry, Harry, I always win,” Ron told him, mock pity in his voice. Harry glared at him, almost digging his heels into the floor to slow them down.
“You don’t! I won last Christmas!” he exclaimed. Ron started bickering with him, a familiar routine from their friendship that Harry was so relieved to participate in that he didn’t notice his friend was steering him away from the Great Hall. In fact he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until he stepped out into bright sunlight and a chorus of voices shouted,
Harry jumped, the faces of the people before him dancing before his eyes before settling and letting him identify who was there. Professor McGonagal beamed at him and reached out to tug him further into the courtyard, perhaps seeing the wish to run from this wholly unexpected encounter in his face. Then Ron patted his back, chuckling under his breath, and the world steadied for Harry.
Remus Lupin was closest, looking as worn and faded as ever, but Harry didn’t care. Lupin was the last of the Marauders, and his last link to Sirius and his parents. That he was here meant a lot to Harry, and he’d flung his arms around the werewolf before he even thought about what he was doing. Thin, yet strong arms wrapped around him, squeezing lightly, and Harry pulled back after a moment, beaming.
“It’s good to see you,” he told Remus sincerely, and got a laugh in reply.
“Thanks, Harry. You’re looking well,” Remus looked him over very carefully, “A bit thin though.”
“You can talk,” Harry retorted, but there was no heat in his voice and the werewolf grinned at him, shrugging. They both knew why Remus was looking so worn - there was no point in raking open old wounds. Harry stepped back and Hermoine touched his arm.
“Happy birthday, Harry,” she looked a little uncertain, and he reached out to hug her too, a quick squeeze around her waist before letting go again. He’d never been in the habit of reaching out and touching someone unless there were exceptional circumstances, and he was all too aware that the events of the summer had made him even more hesitant.
“Thanks Hermoine,” he knew the words were inadequate, but she smiled as if she understood. Ginny tapped her shoulder, and Hermoine stepped aside for the red head, who promptly hugged Harry then let go, her eyes searching his face anxiously. He smiled and tugged on her hair, the way he’d seen her brothers do it, and she sniffled suspiciously, managing a watery smile before turning to examine the nearest decoration with a kind of fixed attention.
“Harry!” Fred stepped into her place, George at his shoulder. They grabbed his hands and shook them vigorously, while Harry laughed in astonishment at their robes.
“What are you wearing?” he exclaimed. The twins were both dressed in rather luridly patterned robes, with wildly clashing colours. They’d always been the most flamboyant people in Griffindor, but now they were out of school, the twins seemed to have let that trait have full rein.
“You like?” George beamed, “We think they’ll be the latest craze!”
“They’re very…colourful,” Harry replied politely. The twins didn’t seem to mind though, and they laughed, stepping back for the next person. Harry was starting to feel a little overwhelmed, but he grinned up at Bill and shook his hand, taking a deep breath to steady himself. He didn’t know Bill that well, but it meant a lot to him that Ron’s family had come to see him on his birthday.
Hagrid stepped up next, hugging Harry so lightly that he barely felt it. The few times they’d met over the last week or so, Hagrid had been very diffident, treating Harry as if he might break. Harry didn’t know if his friend had realised how intimidated Harry felt by Hagrid’s size and strength at the moment, but he was grateful that the half giant didn’t seem to take his nerves personally.
Mrs Weasley stepped up and engulfed him in a very motherly hug, kissing his cheek and patting his shoulder fondly when she stepped back. Her eyes were rather bright, and Harry knew he was red in the face and rather shaky to boot. Molly Weasley had been his only source of maternal affection, and he’d do anything in the world for her. Her husband stepped in, just as they were looking like coming over all emotional and he pulled Harry in for a brief hug too, surprising him no end.
Before he could really embarrass himself, Ron’s stomach rumbled loudly, and Harry’s echoed it. Everyone laughed, and the emotional atmosphere vanished. Harry found himself seated at the head of the table, with Hermoine on one side and Remus on the other. Plates appeared in the middle of the table and everyone started passing them around.
“Did you take your Apparate test today?” Lupin asked, slipping a few extra spoonfuls of potato salad onto Harry’s plate. He grinned at the man and nodded, slipping a couple of slices of bread and butter onto Lupin’s plate in return.
“Yeah, I passed,” he told him, and glanced at Hermoine. She would turn sixteen just after they returned to school, and her parents wouldn’t be able to teach her this skill because they were Muggle dentists, “How will you practice for your test?”
“Professor Flitwick is going to teach me…he does a class for the Muggle-born after school, and then someone from the Ministry comes down to test us all,” she smiled, “I can’t wait to get started. I’ve already read all the theory, of course, but it’s not the same as practice.”
Harry grinned at her. Typical Hermoine. Knowing her she’d have memorised several books by now, and would probably be able to pass the test right now.
“I wonder how Neville will go,” Ron said from beside Lupin, and they all shared a slightly sympathetic grin. Neville Longbottom’s primary problem with performing magic was his total lack of confidence in himself. His grandmother had raised him on stories of how brilliant his parents were, and his aunts and uncles had compounded the problem by trying to teach him all sorts of different things at once.
“He’ll get there,” Harry stated confidently, “Look how quickly he improved in the DA. All he needed was some confidence.”
Ron grinned around a mouthful and would have spoken if his mother hadn’t spotted him and told him off.
Dinner passed very pleasantly. Hermoine and Ginny told Harry about their holidays - Ginny was going home with Hermoine tonight for a couple of weeks - and Fred and George filled Harry in on the latest news from their joke shop. From their accounts it was doing quite well - they were able to afford an assistant now, who was minding the shop while they were out.
When the last of the food had disappeared, and the plates and cutlery as well, Hagrid stood up, his crystal glass held a little gingerly in one hand.
“I’d just like ter propose a toast,” he waited until everyone had raised their own glasses, “Ter Harry. Hope yer birthday is a happy one, and many more to come.”
“To Harry,” the others chorused, and Harry flushed, sipping nervously at his drink. Hagrid sat down again and a small pile of parcels appeared on the table in front of Harry. He jumped badly, and then mopped hurriedly at the spilled pumpkin juice. Hermoine joined her napkin with his and they managed to contain the mess.
“Well go on then,” Ron urged impatiently when Harry put the balled up napkin to one side and hesitated, “Let’s have a look!”
Harry sat on his bed and looked at his gifts. Remus had given him a wallet made from dragon hide. There was a photo of himself, Sirius and James in it, the three Marauders, taken by the fourth, Peter Pettigrew. Lupin had murmured something about it being a joint present from himself and Sirius, and Harry had smiled and thanked his father’s friend quietly. George and Fred’s present had distracted everyone by partially exploding at that point, and Mrs Weasley had told the twins off while Harry and Ron put out the banner Hagrid had hung up, which was smouldering slightly from some stray sparks. The slightly singed Skivers Snackbox smelled a bit smoky, but George had assured Harry that the present would still work. Hermoine had given him a custom made bag to store his Firebolt in, made from a dark brown material that tingled slightly under Harry’s fingers when he’d touched it. Hermoine had explained that she’d had the store put several anti-hex charms on it, and he’d thanked her with a hug. Ron had received a similar bag for his birthday, in deep red.
Ginny and Bill had gone in together to buy Harry several manuals of defensive spells and potions. Ron had promptly annexed one to flip through, while Hermoine browsed another. Their time in the DA - an underground group that had practiced defensive spells and duelling - had made all three of them interested in learning more than the curriculum provided. Harry spared a thought to wonder who would be teaching Defence Against the Dart Arts this coming school year, and then put the books aside.
Hagrid had given him a very thick pair of gloves, made from a hide that Harry couldn’t identify. They were a strangely pale violet, and Harry wondered what they were studying in Care of Magical Creatures that he would need such thick gloves. Mrs Weasley’s gift had also been spell books - ‘Magical Recipes for Beginners’, ‘Hearty Meals With a Wave of the Wand’, ‘Better Household Management Through Magic’, and ‘Every Everyday Spell and Potion You’ll Ever Need’.
“I think mum’s giving you a hint, Harry,” Fred had commented to laughter at that point. Harry had laughed too, but he’d given Mrs Weasley an extra smile. She was trying to ensure that he would be able to take care of himself in the future.
It was Mr Weasley’s gift that had brought unexpected tears to Harry’s eyes. It had been a dark green toiletry bag, containing a straight razor, strop, shaving brush and soap. Ron’s words had come back to him with a rush, and Harry had to control himself very hard. Ron had seemed to understand this, because he distracted everyone by asking Hagrid where he’d gotten his gift.
“Still gloating over the loot, huh?” Ron asked from the doorway, carrying two mugs of steaming tea. Dobby was behind him with a tray of food, and Harry got up to give the elf the piece of birthday cake he’d saved especially. Dobby thanked him profusely, and eventually left the two of them alone. There was a plate of sandwiches on the tray, and a couple of pieces of fruit for afters. Ron sat opposite Harry while they ate, then took the tray away again. Harry cleared the presents off the bed, putting his broom in the bag, and transferring the money sent from Gringotts to his new wallet. He flicked through one of the cookbooks and then settled down with ‘Every Everyday Spell and Potion You’ll Ever Need’, flipping through the sections of the book slowly. He looked up when Ron returned and put the book aside, getting up and walking to meet his friend.
He reached out a little hesitantly, hating that he felt so afraid of this simple act, knowing that Ron would never deliberately hurt him, had never hit him, but still unable to overcome the instinct that said solitude was best. Ron’s arms circled him in a light hold that he could easily break and Harry sighed. He leaned forward again, putting his head on Ron’s shoulder and sighing when his friend’s hands pulled him slowly closer.
“Thank you for my party,” Harry said quietly. Ron chuckled and rubbed the small of his back again. Warmth spread through Harry’s body, relaxing his muscles, and soothing his nerves. He forced one hand to unclench from Ron’s robes and move up to his friends shoulder where the fingers kneaded muscle without any direction from him. This small intimacy, initiated while they were both awake, felt like a huge step to the boy who’d never been touched often, or even with love.
“I’m not the one who organised it,” Ron admitted, “I was just in charge of getting you there on time.”
Harry rubbed his cheek on the shoulder he was hiding in and Ron shushed under his breath.
“Your dad gave me a shaving kit,” Harry’s voice was very small, and Ron tightened his grip. Harry knew that he’d never be able to explain how significant this gift felt to him. The Weasley’s had always been very kind to him, and generous about including him in their holidays, but Harry had never dared imagine that they might really consider him a part of the family - Molly’s words to Sirius aside.
Ron took a deep breath, sighing softly, the air tickling through Harry’s hair and he smiled in the comforting dark. Ron was family now. That was one hell of a wicked birthday present.
It felt like a slap in the face to be confronted the next morning with the clothes that he’d been wearing the day he’d been taken to St Mungo’s. Someone had cleaned and repaired them, obviously, but still…
They were the only Muggle clothes that he had, and Harry swallowed hard, glad that Ron was still in the bathroom and not witnessing this particular little freak out. His hands shook as he touched the faded, oversized, ragged cloth on the bed, then he sighed and pulled the items on one at a time, doing it automatically, trying not to think about it. He did up his trainers and tucked his wand out of sight. His new wallet went into a pocket as well, and Harry took a book down to the common room to read until Ron was ready to go down to breakfast.
“Bloody hell, Harry,” Ron exploded, and Harry sighed. His friend looked horrified at the sight of Dudley’s old clothes, but pulled himself together. Harry guessed his thoughts were visible on his face because Ron sighed and shook his head.
“The minute we’ve got something to replace those things with they’re going in the bin,” Ron vowed. Harry felt his mood improve and Ron pulled him out of the armchair where he’d been brooding. Neither teen had much appetite, and they left breakfast early, walking quietly down to the town of Hogsmeade. Ron Apparated first, appearing in the cluttered walled courtyard behind the Leaky Cauldron. Harry Disapparated beside him, and they grinned at each other - spirits lifting for the first time.
“Come on,” Harry felt a bit better, remembering where they were going to spend the day, and why. When he’d been eight years old it had become fashionable at school for the boys to wear a certain type of jacket, only available from one place in London. Dudley had thrown his biggest tantrum to date, and Aunt Petunia had been forced to take Harry with them the weekend they went to find Dudley’s jacket. The eight-year-old Harry had been fascinated by the wide variety of people and styles of dress all gathered in one spot in a way he hadn’t seen again until his first visit to Diagon Alley. Ron - Muggle lover that he was - would love this place, and Harry would love being able to wander at his own will through the fascinating streets and alleyways.
“Where are we going?” Ron asked as they finally managed to get a seat on the tube. Up until that point he’d been too interested in the ticket machines, escalators, various posters and the tunnels that the tube trains rushed through, commenting non-stop to Harry under his breath. The dark haired teen had been hard pressed to answer all the questions Ron had fired at him.
“Camden Town,” Harry pointed to the correct station and Ron looked over the map of the Northern Line for a moment, fascinated by the way it split and looped around. Then he looked back at his friend and bounced his eyebrows at him.
“And what’s there?” Ron pressed. Harry shrugged with feigned nonchalance.
“A couple of markets,” he replied in an off hand tone. Ron fixed him with a considering look - too experienced with Fred and George’s pranks to be taken in by that. He didn’t say anything though, just settled back to tick off the stations as they passed, looking around at their fellow passengers. Harry led the way out of the station and hooked Ron’s elbow, pulling him to stand against the station wall for a moment.
“Bloody hell! A couple of markets?” Ron gawked and Harry laughed. There were even more people than Harry remembered, but he didn’t care. He felt like just being one of the throng after the intense scrutiny of yesterday. He glanced around and spotted a likely place to start looking. He was going to have to rebuild his entire wardrobe for all the seasons, so the bargain basement store was the perfect place to start. They walked past the more flashy shirts and formal trousers to the jeans and t-shirts. There were quite a few displays marked ‘two for the price of one’ or ‘three for £12’, and Harry started rummaging there. Ron watched him for a moment and then started helping, picking out shirts in a similar vein to the ones that Harry had started with - namely plain solid colours that weren’t too bright. Once they both had an armful, Harry went to try on a pair of jeans for size, coupling it with a dull red t-shirt. The dark blue jeans fit well, but he thought the t-shirt was a bit tight, and opened the door for Ron’s opinion. Harry had never been clothes shopping before, and was a little nervous about the whole process.
“Is the shirt too tight?” he asked, opening the door. He knew Ron was there because his friend had just found a pair of cargo pants and was laughing at all the pockets. Ron gaped at him, mouth open, and Harry shifted irritably.
“Come on, Ron,” he frowned and Ron shook his head, sense coming back into the bright blue eyes.
“No, it’s fine, Harry.”
Ron’s voice was oddly husky and Harry looked at him doubtfully for a moment before shrugging. His friend wouldn’t lie to him, so whatever was bugging him wasn’t the clothes. He took the cargo pants that Ron was holding out wordlessly and closed the door again, trying them on for fit before changing back into Dudley’s clothes and stepping out of the changing room.
“Ok, let’s pay for this stuff,” Harry glanced over at what Ron was holding, and led the way to the register. They dumped their selection on the counter and the guy behind the till went into a whirl of motion, folding clothes and totalling up the purchase as he went. Harry paid over a fairly small amount of money for the pile and started picking up the bags.
“Wait,” Ron grabbed his wrist. He watched as his friend dug through the bags to come up with the original jeans and shirt that Harry had tried on.
“Look, my friend here needs to change. You wouldn’t mind if he went back there again and…” Ron fixed the multiply pierced young man with his best wide eyed look. Harry flushed a little at the comprehending look he got and the clerk grinned.
“I will even bin those for you!” the young man laughed, “Go get changed.”
He cut the tags off and Harry stumbled back to the changing room to change. He rifled the pockets of Dudley’s jeans to ensure he hadn’t left anything behind and then took the offending items back out the front, where the clerk made a show of dumping them into the bin under his counter. Ron laughed, and Harry grinned, picking up his bags and climbing up out of the basement, feeling lighter than he had for a long time.
They walked up and down the markets, browsing through the stalls, and Harry found a wide range of clothes that suited his rather vague wants, and met with Ron’s easy standards as well. Ron spent most of the time watching the punks and freaks and norms that were thronging through the market places too.
Ron bought them lunch, spending an hour and a half among the food stalls, sampling everything and discovering a fondness for lamb curries and sweet and sour pork. Harry wandered along with him, happy to share portions and sample new things. Once Ron had his fill they stopped by a few shoe stores, where Ron bought a pair of purple glitter Doc Marten boots that laced to his knees, and Harry bought a plain pair of black ankle length boots. They wandered through the antique stalls, then made the first ‘find’ of the day. In a back alley there were several stalls selling crystals, incense and rune stones. Ron examined a set of Tarot cards curiously, muttering to Harry that they didn’t have the correct aura to be any use, which had Harry in stitches. One stall, however was selling ‘alternate’ clothing, and Ron discovered a rack of cloaks.
They were different to the Wizard style cloaks, in that there were no sleeves, plackets or cuffs, but that didn’t matter when Ron pulled out two rather striking examples. The first was a smoky blue colour, dark and shot through with copper threads. He flung it around his shoulders with the practiced twist of the wrist that all Witches and Wizards came to have and Harry’s breath caught at the sight. The hooded garment fell into perfect folds, emphasising Ron’s lean height and broad shoulders. Ron tied it closed and rubbed his fingers over it, appreciating the copper lining and the heavy brocade of the outer material.
He grinned at Harry and flung the second cloak around his friend, a dusty green colour that was pale green at the top and darkened to black at the hem. They were unaware of the fascinated eye of the stallholder as they admired each other in the cloaks. The majority of Wizards loved unusual clothing and styles, and Harry could almost guarantee that there wouldn’t be anything like this in Diagon Alley.
“It would be useless for flying,” Harry pointed out under his breath, rubbing his fingers over Ron’s arm, appreciating the texture of the material. His own cloak felt incredibly soft, and in the midday heat he was rapidly overheating, a good indication that the cloak would provide some warmth in winter.
“Doesn’t matter,” Ron replied, “Mum always has a few old clasps that we could sew on to replace these strings. You are not leaving here without that cloak.”
“Same to you,” Harry challenged and Ron grinned, digging out his money. The stall owner wrapped the cloaks for them, and they strolled away, pleased with themselves.
The second ‘find’ of the day was just around the corner from there. Wizards loved books - they didn’t have the diversions of television and movies that Muggles preferred - and the Weasley’s home had a bookcase in just about every room. The bookstalls were extensive and Ron had never really had a chance to look over Muggle fiction.
Harry had to sit down he was laughing so hard, when Ron started critiquing the fantasy novels on offer - refuting the errors and making fun of the pictures on the cover. Ron had to help him back up and check that Harry had all the bags he’d been carrying, as Harry was laughing much too hard to make sense. The science fiction was much more to Ron’s liking, and he picked up half a dozen books there before finding the murder/mystery/crime section. As Harry was also interested in these books they came away with an astonishing number of books, their wallets empty.
Rather than taking the tube back with all their bags and parcels they found a public toilet and went in. After a quick check to see that the stalls were empty, they Apparated to Hogsmeade then used the levitation charm to get the packages back to Hogwarts.
Dobby appeared and took all the clothes away to be washed and returned the next day, and Ron had sent a message to his mother about the cloak clasps. When he returned, Harry was on the couch with a book, and Ron joined him, sitting close and taking his free hand. They had inched closer and closer over the next few hours until they were positively cuddling each other warmly, and their tangled fingers were talking to each other, directing their attention to each others books and interesting passages.
Over breakfast the next day they noticed that Professor McGonagal had left Hogwarts and Professors Flitwick and Sprout had arrived. They waved from the teachers’ table, and Ron had offered them a cheerful smile while Harry continued to the table. There was a note next to their plates and Ron groaned when he read it.
“And the day started so well,” he sighed, crumpling the note up and sticking it in his pocket. Mr Filch had chores for them to do inside the castle. Mr Filch was not known for his fondness for students and whatever he had in mind was sure to be tedious, difficult and possibly disgusting.
“Yeah, it did,” Harry agreed, a very soft look in his eyes. Ron had kissed him awake again, and Harry had felt secure enough to put his arms around his bedmate, holding Ron close. Ron sighed and sat down, fishing for the knuts to pay the owl while Harry made a space for the paper, piling their plates in the middle of the table and slathering jam over a couple of pieces of toast.
Dumbledore was in the paper this morning, urging the Wizard world not to become complacent about their safety. They read the article carefully, flipped through the rest of the paper and noted that Rita Skeeter had published an article about the state of Muggle relations, raising the issue that Witches and Wizards born to Muggle families should be taken into the Wizarding community as soon as they were identified to ensure they were protected. Harry felt a little sick at that and glanced bleakly at Ron. Fingers squeezed his and he sighed, turning the page and concentrating fiercely on the latest Quidditch news while Ron fumed beside him.
Ron took a deep breath as they walked towards Filch’s office. He’d have to hope that the caretaker had something sufficiently diverting for them to do, so Harry wouldn’t brood. Mrs Norris was sitting outside the door, watching them through narrow red eyes. She had been a particular nuisance last year, patrolling the corridors and reporting to Filch almost constantly. The DA had all been in favour of jinxing her, but Harry had pointed out that Filch would be in an even worse mood if that happened, and had suggested they just say hello as they pass her. It had annoyed Filch no end to have students suddenly speaking to his cat, and the DA had been appeased.
“Hello Mrs Norris,” Harry said out of habit, and knocked on the caretaker’s door. Filch opened it and scowled out at them. He wore a very dirty smock and his lank hair seemed filthier than ever.
“Yer to polish the armour on the second floor,” he said without preamble, “The cloths and polish are already there. Bring them back here when yer finished.”
The door slammed shut and Harry gave Ron a little grin. The redhead merely rolled his eyes and followed his friend away from the caretaker’s office.
“He was in fine form,” Ron commented as they headed for the second floor. The main corridors there were lined with various suits of armour, which guarded the library, the hospital wing, several storage cupboards and a couple of classrooms.
There was a pile of rags and several bottles of polish sitting in the middle of the corridor, and Ron whipped his wand out. He picked up a cloth and a bottle and placed them at the feet of the first suit.
“Mobilus domesticus,” he said firmly. The polish tipped itself onto the cloth and the cloth started polishing. Harry grinned and picked out a cloth and bottle himself. He added its efforts to the suit that Ron’s cloth was already polishing, then grabbed a second.
“Uh, this will only work on one at a time,” Ron warned and Harry shrugged. He moved to the suit opposite and started cleaning by hand, glancing back at his friend.
“This will go quicker if we work as well,” he suggested. Ron heaved a sigh, but grabbed a cloth and went to help, keeping an eye on the animated cloths opposite them.
They soon established a routine, working in perfect rhythm to polish the suits comprehensively, before checking on the animated cloths and then moving to the next one. Ron found that their heads were close together when they worked on the legs of a suit and Harry would shoot him little glances, leaning in towards him and then backing off again. Ron thought his friend was working up to something, and was delighted three suits later when Harry leaned in and kissed him very briefly, before flushing bright red and rubbing at a knee guard so energetically the suit complained.
Ten suits later the kisses were longer and Harry had stopped blushing, lingering with his forehead against Ron’s instead. Ron was finding it increasingly difficult to crouch down to get to the feet of the suits, and from Harry’s discreet squirms the other teen was having the same problem.
They finished in time for a late dinner, and then returned to the Griffindor dorms. They grabbed a book each and went down to the kitchens to beg for some afternoon tea and a blanket. Harry led Ron to the secluded spot he’d found at the end of last term and they spread the blanket out before sprawling out on it. Ron lay on his back, his head propped on a fold of blanket, while Harry stretched out on his stomach.
Ten minutes later the books were cast aside in favour of kissing. Ron had his hand in the small of Harry’s back again, rubbing in circles, liking the way Harry melted at the touch. Harry had tucked his fingers up inside Ron’s t-shirt, stroking warm skin lightly as they kissed and kissed.
The morning paper arrived as usual, followed by two official looking owls with an envelope each for them.
“Our OWL results,” Harry realised, staring at Ron, “I’d forgotten!”
Ron went a little pale and then accepted the envelope from the bird. He could remember the row when the twins’ results arrived, and was at least grateful he’d be able to open this in private. Harry was staring at the envelope in his own hand, probably remembering the events that had been occurring all during their OWL testing. Ron took a deep breath and opened the envelope, Harry matching him move for move as they pulled the folded parchment out and opened it.
OWL results for: Ronald Weasley
Defence Against the Dark Arts O
Care of Magical Creatures O
History of Magic A
O - Outstanding A - Acceptable
E - Exceeds Expectations P - Poor
D - Dreadful
“I got four O’s!” Ron blurted, “Harry! Look!”
He shoved the parchment at Harry, who took it and read it through, grinning broadly at his friend. Neither one of them was half as clever as Hermoine, who had probably got O’s in everything, but nor were they dunces. Ron leaned against the table, relieved that he’d be able to at least send a good report to his mother, who was doubtlessly waiting at home impatiently.
“Congratulations, Ron!” Harry wrapped an arm around his shoulders and squeezed without second thought, the contact as easy and natural as one of Ron’s brothers would have. Ron grinned as he was jostled and then sat up.
“Hang on! What did you get?” he demanded and snatched Harry’s letter off the table. They were making rather a lot of noise, but the teachers at the staff table didn’t mind - if Ron or Harry had looked up they’d have seen some very indulgent looks headed their way.
OWL results for: Harry Potter
Defence Against the Dark Arts O
Care of Magical Creatures O
History of Magic A
O - Outstanding A - Acceptable
E - Exceeds Expectations P - Poor
D - Dreadful
“Congratulations,” Ron beamed at his friend, and then frowned, “How did you get an E in Divination?”
Harry shook his head rather helplessly. He’d done well on the theory - that hadn’t been too hard to pick up at all - and the Tarot readings were easy to accomplish. The crystal ball was much harder, and he hadn’t seen anything in the final test that had been worth mentioning, and he’d totally misread the examiners palm at first, before correcting himself and trying again.
“Come on,” Ron leapt up, “We’ll send Pigwidgeon to mum with the results, and Hedwig to Honeydukes so we can celebrate!”
“Boys! Boys!” Flitwick called as Harry got up, laughing a little at his friends antics. They calmed down a bit and hurried over to the staff table.
“Good morning, Professor Flitwick,” Ron grinned, “Do you think we can have a day off from helping Mr Filch? We got some very good results!”
“Of course, Mr Weasley,” Flitwick beamed at them both, “May I see your results?”
They handed the slips of paper over, knowing that the school would get a full recounting of their marks from the Ministry anyway. Flitwick read them over and his smile got impossibly bigger.
“Excellent work boys! And ‘Outstanding’ for Charms! I am pleased! If you can be ready after dinner, Mr Potter, I will take you to Diagon Alley to purchase your school things for this year!” Flitwick handed the parchments back.
“Can Ron come too, Professor?” Harry asked, “We’ll behave!”
Ron felt a warm glow at that. They’d only be apart for a few hours, but that was a rare thing nowadays. Flitwick’s smile became very kind and he gave permission for Ron to come along too.
“Your mother will be purchasing your things, Mr Weasley, but you are welcome to come along,” Flitwick dismissed them to the owlry, and Ron grabbed Harry’s hand as they ran up the steps.
Ron slammed to a stop just inside the dorm door. Harry was standing by their bed - the bed that Ron would have to leave tonight because Dean, Seamus and Neville would be there, and they couldn’t sleep together in front of the others. His partner - and Ron knew that they would be together for the rest of their lives, just like he knew they needed air to breathe and gravity to stay on the ground - was wearing the black school robes over his school uniform, the red and gold Griffindor tie and house badge the only splashes of colour. Harry was taller than he had been last year, and had a bit of colour in his face. He was slender, though Ron knew all too well the strength and warmth of the body hidden beneath the uniform.
They had gone beyond the ‘friendly kissing’ stage - by accident at first, and then eagerly, hands searching out heat and hardness, bodies rubbing together sensuously. Only last night, Ron had tasted Harry for the first time, and Harry had returned the gift rather unexpectedly this morning in the shower - hence Ron’s lateness now. Professor Dumbledore was waiting in his office for them with a port key to take them to the Hogwarts Express. As a Prefect, Ron’s absence would be very noticeable, and Harry was too high profile among the student body to just not arrive at school the usual way - flying cars not withstanding.
Ron shrugged his robes on quickly, turning away to conceal the jealousy he was feeling. After having Harry to himself for the summer, and enjoying the freedom that came with their solitude, Ron was not looking forward to sharing his partner with other people - even their friends. When he had straightened his robe, Ron turned to tell Harry he was ready, only to bump into his partner. Harry slipped his arms around Ron and leaned into him, his head resting naturally on Ron’s shoulder. Ron sighed and returned the hug, turning his head to whisper in Harry’s ear,
“You’re stuck with me Potter, no getting out of it now,” Ron promised and Harry gave him a scorching kiss, pulling back only when they were both very breathless.
“Come on, Dumbledore’s waiting,” Harry peeled himself lose and Ron straightened his robes once more before following his partner out, their fingers tangled together and hidden in the folds of their robes.
To Be Continued…
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