Like Wine Through Water


P6, [T2B] twice, K1, [T2F] twice, P6

Draco nodded to himself, reviewing the line of instructions before tugging up some more wool and adjusting the tension over his left index finger.

Purl, purl, purl, purl, purl, purl, cable back knit- purl one from cable needle, cable back knit- purl one from cable needle, knit one

The weather was sublime; a leaden grey afternoon, chill in the air but not so cold as to affect Draco's fingers as the black silk/alpaca mix slid across his needles in its carefully structured pattern. The sheen of the wool delighted him and he luxuriated in the feeling of the satin-like strands intertwining into an organic whole. Draco was a tactile, sensual person, though in part due to injuries he'd sustained during the War, since then he'd not been able to bear much in the way of human touch. He contented himself in fabrics, wools, and scented, oiled waters. Rather surprisingly, he'd discovered that he really didn't mind celibacy, especially once he'd regained the full use of his hands. He let his eyes drift partway closed, focusing on the muted clicking sound of his ivory needles and the damp, musty tang of spring.

He ignored the sound of peripheral running footsteps until they stopped, followed by a colourful invective sworn loudly in a voice Draco had been only too keen never to hear again. Glancing up, he was assaulted by the sight of a sweating, tracksuit top and running shorts-wearing Ron Weasley. Ron jogged slowly over to Draco, little resembling the wild-eyed, swaggering young man Draco had fought next to at the end of the War. Wherever he'd been, there had been sunshine. Too much of it, as his freckles appeared to have simply oozed into one another, covering Ron's skin like bronze paste. Nobody was meant to have a tan like that at this time of year, especially not Ron. It was profoundly unnatural.

"Draco Malfoy," Ron declared, breathing heavily from his earlier exertions.

"Still patron saint of the obvious, I gather."

"Must say I didn't expect to find you out in a park—" he gestured at the project in Draco's lap, which he hadn't ceased working on since the Weasel's unexpected arrival.

Draco snorted at Ron's unwillingness to continue. "Knitting. I'm knitting, Weasley."

"Why?"

"Why in Hades not?" Draco said, exasperated. "I picked it up as therapy for the nerve damage to my hands I took in that War you also fought in. Who are you to show up after three years and give me grief about it? Obviously wherever you've been, you've not picked up even a shred of much-needed manners."

"Australia. Ended up in Australia. Been surfing, mostly," Ron said, running a large hand through his sweaty hair.

"Why on earth did you feel compelled to come back?" Draco felt a sneer slide comfortingly onto his lips. "Decide to face the music after that spectacular intra-Order fuck-fest you engaged in when not trying to get yourself killed, otherwise known as your pathetic attempt to protect Potter?"

"That's not fair!" Ron bellowed, the heat of embarrassment and anger beginning to mottle his features.

"It most certainly is," Draco said with a patronising smirk. "Moreover, it's true. No wonder you had to go halfway around the world; you'd shagged everyone you knew on this continent."

"It was a war! We could've died any day!" Ron yelled. "And I wasn't that much of a slag. That's not what this is about, though," he said with a surly lip curl. "You're just jealous that I didn't come to your tent."

Draco was so stunned he stopped knitting, mid-stitch. "You honestly believe that, don't you? You think that you're Merlin's gift to wizardkind, despite the tonnes of evidence to the contrary." Flabbergasted, Draco shook his head. "It's as though you're still in sixth year! Most people were forced to become more mature, fighting and joining alliances, seeing friends and family maimed, killed, or worse. Only you could find a way to become more juvenile. You're a real piece of work, Weasley. Now get the fuck out of my life back to where you belong."

Ron stared at him, standing taut like a pulled bowstring. Draco couldn't tell whether Ron would lash into him or surrender. It ended up the latter, Ron appearing to crumple in to himself with a resigned sigh. Draco was very uncomfortable by the display of this contrite, tanned and buff Ron. He was especially so when Ron sat down next to him, uninvited. Ron picked up one of the skeins of wool out of Draco's satchel, running his fingers over the luxuriant fibres as he began to speak.

"I'm not like that anymore," he said.

Draco wished fervently that he could scoot away in a discreet manner, but he was already at the end of the bench.

"I was really messed up then," Ron went on. "Reckon we all were," he said, looking hopefully at Draco, who schooled his features, willing to remain impassive. This was all a bit much, his blissful afternoon ruined by Ron-Ex-Surfer-Dude-Let-Me-Tell-You-How-I've-Changed-Weasley.

"Ron," Draco said, interrupting whatever confession Weasley had with a rare use of his given name. "I'm really not up to this. Not today, probably never. I can't say I'm glad you've returned, the prodigal Weasley back at last. We're not friends, we've nothing in common—"

Ron opened his mouth in protest, drawing himself up, his wide shoulders expanding impossibly further as he took a deep breath.

"The War doesn't count. Everybody was involved."

With a loud exhale, Ron sat back, sticking his wide fingers into the side holes of the skein. Draco didn't know how he had the self-control not to snatch away his wool, but he allowed Weasley to fondle it for a while longer.

"If you feel guilty, go and repent to someone who cares," Draco said. He took deep-seated satisfaction in seeing an expression of regret settle onto Ron's face. Maybe his day wasn't totally unsalvageable after all. "Some people may have been pining for you after your sudden departure, but I can assure you, I wasn't one of them. It's just chance that you decided to run through the park today; I know full well you wouldn't've tried to find me." Ron's eyebrows furrowed and he looked as though he was going to contradict that comment as well, but Draco kept going. "Go on to Potter and Granger and Finnigan and whomever else. Let's keep this little reunion as brief as possible while we're still civil."

"I've already patched things up with them."

"Fast worker, you are."

"I sorted through things while I was away. Harry and Hermione even came to visit for a little while."

"You're telling me this as though I care," Draco snapped.

"I'm a better bloke. I've changed!" Ron exclaimed.

"And I haven't! Now bugger off and leave me alone!" Draco said, punctuating the words as vehemently as possible.

"No! Why won't you give me a chance?"

"Give you a chance at what, exactly?" His patience shredded, Draco snatched the skein out of his freckled hands. "This is insane. There's no reason for you to be here, molesting my wool and trying to be my bloody friend or something after some sunstroke-induced epiphany halfway around the world."

"You sound a lot more like Snape than you used to," Ron said thoughtfully.

"Thank you," Draco snarled, shoving the sweater in progress into his satchel. "Flattery doesn't work with me, however. If you won't go, then I will." He stood up in a fury. With trembling hands, he hoisted the leather bag up onto the bench, buckled the straps and slung the satchel over his shoulder. Ron evaluated him, his blue eyes filled with concern.

"I'm sorry," he said, rising from the bench and moving his hand to place it on Draco's arm.

"Don't touch me," Draco said through gritted teeth.

Ron drew his had back as though Draco had verbally scorched it. Draco's wandless magic was tremendously strong; he'd learned to rely on it when he'd been rendered incapacitated from his forearms down. He'd not had an outburst of unrestrained, usually violent magic in months. Trust Weasley to come along and nearly undo the progress he'd made. Given the shocked look on Weasley's face, the rush of barbed energy had taken its brief toll.

"Okay, fine." Ron looked both alarmed and intrigued. "Look, I'm glad I stumbled across you. I didn't mean to make you angry."

"It's what you do," Draco said, clipping the words. "It's what you've always done." He could feel the anger swarming through him, making his fingers tingle and his gut clench. He needed to get away before he did something that might get him arrested. Despite the satisfaction he'd feel in punching Weasley across his stubbled jaw, his pride demanded he not let Ron know just how deeply his sudden reappearance had affected him.

"We could meet up for drinks," Ron offered, carefully putting his hands in his tracksuit top. "I'm not like I used—"

"You've changed. Got it," Draco said threateningly. "Say it again and I will hex you. If you're really that desperate for company, owl me. I'll see if I'm available." He readied himself to Apparate, closing his eyes and concentrating on the small pond next to the hermitage he'd created.

"Where do you live?" Ron asked.

"The Manor."

With a crack! Draco was gone.

* * * * *

Ten days passed without a troublesome owl from Weasley. Draco was frankly surprised, since he'd seemed so intent on showing Draco his new colours, whatever they might be beyond golden brown. Weasley was rather peacock-like when he got down to it; he'd always played up his size and brawn. Ron had grown to glory in the fact that he couldn't ever blend in, not with his lurid, distinctive looks. No, it was definitely for the best that the Weasel had let their chance meeting in the park remain the sole instance.

He did, however, receive an owl to join his Healer for dinner. Draco readily accepted. Raven Abbott had been the Healer who'd been assigned to him once Draco had been deemed fit to be trusted by the Order. Through the long months of dismantling wards and ancient Malfoysian traps in the Manor estate, it had been Raven who worked with Draco. He'd helped him to channel his damaged ambric energy through Draco's then-palsied hands to make it a place where he could live and thrive. He'd held Draco in blessed silence when the hot tears of loss and fury inevitably coursed miserably out of him. When Draco was at last discharged from his care, Raven had given Draco a self-crafted leather bracelet representative of all the work he'd accomplished in giving Draco back the use of his hands.

He was also one of the few people whose touch Draco could stand.

They had a delightful dinner at the Belligerent Badger, a rather run-down pub that continued to serve the best steak and kidney pudding in all of England, according to Raven. For his part, Draco was rather fond of their trademark red malt ale. Things never felt forced around the Healer. His pacifying nature put Draco at ease, and Draco felt free to speak his mind without fear of reproach or judgment. Draco had never met anyone like him, and while their relationship was decidedly nonsexual, it was the most intimate Draco had ever known.

Once back at his hermitage, Draco poured himself a large snifter of brandy. He always felt relaxed after his time with Raven, and kindly towards himself. This often led to intense wanking sessions and satisfying sleep, and tonight was no exception. He rubbed his hand over the front of his trousers, gently cupping his soft cock through the fabric. Taking a sip of his digestif, he contemplated the possibilities; in a well-secured box he had myriad toys and restraints he could apply to himself. Mentally he went through some of his favourites: an evergreen set of nipple clamps, a very well-endowed dildo with sacs that had a self-buggering charm on it, fur-lined cuffs that attached to the posts of his bed. He continued to stroke himself as he contemplated each of them, until all of a sudden he knew exactly what he wanted— a bath. He'd have to go into the Manor for that, but he didn't mind. There was a sumptuous private suite adjacent to his childhood room.

Draco pocketed a phial of sage-infused lubricant, topped up his brandy, and Apparated into his large bathroom. Raven had helped him modify a Muggle device that played discs of music; Lucius had never been one for having music in the house. Raven had introduced Draco to all sorts of composers during his healing process, mostly Muggle, though the Healer had confided that many of them were highly suspected to be wizards. Ravel's Bolero beckoned to Draco and he put it in, listening to the slow, sensuous introduction as he set the vast tub to fill with water. He shed his clothes, carefully folding them and piling them into a neat stack before going to a shelf filled with fragrant oils. Draco raked his bottom teeth against his upper lip as he looked over the possibilities, settling on a pine-scented bottle and pouring some into the steaming bath. The room began to smell of a warm forest. Draco stopped the taps and gingerly stepped into the tub. It was heavenly. He cast a cushioning charm against the unforgiving porcelain and sank down until the water lapped at his collarbones.

Several deep breaths later, he allowed himself to think about who would ravage him this evening. Draco consciously didn't put faces on the men in his mind's eye who were privy to his body. They were bodies with voices, nothing more. Frankly, that was enough. He teased himself, drawing ever-tightening circles around his nipples, pinching at them between thumb and index finger until they hardened under his touch. Who was doing it? He let his hands draw lower, ghosting over his ribs and down the plane of his stomach to his splayed inner thighs. He wanted something to focus on, craved a man's touch, but he needed to visualise it. Inexplicably freckled, large fingers drifted to mind.

Weasley.

Draco scowled. Using wandless magic he reset the music to start over, as minutes had gone by and he hadn't really heard a note. He didn't honestly want to think about Ron, did he? Cradling his supple bollocks in his right hand, he thought back to their meeting. The man did have very nice legs, and even during the War, Draco had been unable to ignore how well his arse filled out his standard-issue slacks. He could simply imagine someone like Weasley, without it being him. That being settled, Draco resumed his self-attentions.

It was always a first-time scenario; that was what got Draco off. A new lover, exploring his body and yet innately knowing what Draco wanted. He let the relentless throbbing of the music fuel his fantasy as he leaned over the side of the tub to get his lube. He poured some of the thick gel onto his fingers before relaxing against the softened tub, closing his eyes and letting his left hand drift through the water to his entrance. The not-Weasley man was crooning near-obscenities in Draco's ear, his husky voice saying how hot and tight he was as Draco pushed two fingers inside himself. He clenched around them, his right hand grasping his neglected cock as he began to pull up and down, the slow burn of arousal sparking into a more fevered pitch. Draco let his head loll on the tub, biting down on his lower lip as he worked three fingers into himself, wishing now that he had one of his dildos. As he pressed against his prostate, however, all thought of toys vanished. Not-Weasley held him in thrall. The music was loud and triumphant, his new lover was pounding into him as he mercilessly wanked his cock in the warm water, and words were pouring over him: I love seeing myself in you, love fucking you, so needy, you want this, Merlin you're pulling me in like such a greedy slut but you're mine, no one else can have you, come for me, Draco, Draco…

Thrashing, Draco yelled into the tiled room as his orgasm overwhelmed him. Thankfully it wasn't anyone's name, just the thunderous release of pleasure as his arse muscles spasmed around his fingers. He slowed his movements on his prick as his breathing began to slow. His whole body was flushed with excitement and the heat of the water. Reluctantly he opened his eyes to the solitary reality of the silent room. Evidently he'd outlasted the music, though he didn't remember it coming to its crashing conclusion. With a feeling of loss he pulled his fingers out of his body, swishing them around in the cooling water. Draco looked down at his softening cock in his hand, at the platinum curly hairs that swayed in the current, and for the first time in ages, felt lonely.

Gingerly he got out of the tub. After casting a heating charm on his towel, he dried off and summoned a thick bathrobe. Nestling his brandy snifter to his breastbone, he Apparated back to his hermitage, put on a pair of flannel pyjama bottoms, and sank into bed. He felt dissatisfied and out of sorts, which was frustrating since he'd had an absolutely bone-melting wank. Eyebrows furrowed, he drained his glass and spelled out the candles. He situated himself in the middle of his bed, placing a pillow between his knees and let his mind drift back to his bath time fantasy. It was to the murmured eggings-on of a faceless, devoted lover that Draco eventually fell asleep.

* * * * *

A few more days went by. One sunny morning he lounged in a satin robe, having his first cup of tea as he unrolled the day's Daily Prophet.

"Fuck!" he swore, dropping his cup with a clatter onto the saucer. Mysterious Strain of Bloodcurdle Strikes Two Victims the headline read in bold print. Pictured below were two deathly ill individuals with St. Mungo's finest rushing around them. Draco could all-too-easily identify them, though the caption under the Creevey photographs confirmed it in stark black ink.



"No, no, no," Draco murmured to himself as he tore down into his bedroom. He dressed as quickly as he could, sparing a scant two minutes to rush to his bathroom. He splashed water on his face, cast a shaving spell and pulled his long hair into a ponytail.

"What's your hurry?" The mirror asked cheekily. "You look like a wreck."

"No time," Draco snapped. "Sod off."

Robes billowing behind him, he stormed outside. Panic coiled in his stomach, making him nauseous and irritable.

He's going to be okay, Draco reassured himself, willing his whirling thoughts to go about their usual orderly paths. All kinds of people are cured of the most obscure hexes. He'll be fine.

He closed his eyes and sent an anguished plea to whoever ruled the universe before closing his eyes and Apparating outside of St. Mungo's. Once inside, he nearly pounced on the young man at the welcome desk.

"What room is Healer Abbott in?" Draco asked tersely.

"He's in the emergency ward on the second floor, room 2601."

Draco had already turned and made two fast steps toward the lifts when the man called out, "But neither he nor Ms. Granger are allowed visitors!"

"No visitors?" Draco yelled as he turned on his heel, getting a disapproving look from a Healer striding quickly past him.

"Not in the room. They've been quarantined. There're heaps of other people up there to try and see them, though," the irritatingly chipper man said.

Draco grunted in response, opting to take the stairs to work off some of his frustration. When Draco emerged from the stairway, he found a small circus of people gathered outside of Raven and Granger's room. Healers, Ministry Officials, and press were jumbled in with a throng of family and friends. The unmistakable figure of Ron Weasley towered in a nearby corner.

Damn.

He tried to see if he could at least get closer to the patients' door without being noticed, but he felt Weasley's eyes on him as he shouldered his way through the melee. When Rita Skeeter asked him his opinion on whether or not this was a Death Eater plot, he politely but firmly told her to fuck off. At last he was able to look in through the small pane of glass. The sight was far more horrible now that he was there in person. They both looked ghastly, their mottled skin revealing just how quickly the disease had progressed. Raven's distinguishing long grey hair lay limp on his pillow, his chest rising and falling so slowly that Draco found himself breathing quickly as though to inspire him from behind the door.

"I didn't think you liked Hermione," Ron said disconcertingly near Draco's right shoulder.

"I'm not here to see Granger," Draco said, his voice dripping scorn.

"You're a friend of the Healer?"

"Yes, Weasley." Draco turned to look up at him, wanting to roll his eyes at the incredulous, open look on Ron's face. "I do actually have acquaintances and friends. Raven Abbott is someone I hold in the highest regard." He looked back into the room, surprising himself at his own honesty as he said quietly, "I can't believe this is happening. He means the world to me. But I've never told him."

"Were you…" Ron's voice trailed off and Draco snapped his head to glare at Ron and his hesitancy.

"Together? Fuckbuddies? Boyfriends? No," Draco said vehemently. "He's not like us, for starters. He worked miracles on me while I was here and then helped me dismantle most of the horrors that had been put in place at the Manor. I enjoy his company. I always feel better after we've met up. He's a friend to me," he said, turning to gaze back into the flurry of activity around the Raven and Granger. "Closest one I have." Melancholy threatened to unhinge him. He needed to get away, but he wanted to be sure that someone would contact him if Raven's condition changed.

"Look, do you want to go for a walk or something?"

Draco's surprise must have shown on his face, because Ron quickly continued on, "I hate it that I can't do batshite for Hermione. Being here, being useless, it's making me crazy. Oh, and I'm sorry I didn't owl. The day after I saw you I got called into emergency child-sitting for Charlie and Valerica in Romania. He got really messed up by a Siberian Snegbog, and his wife still had her duties, so they asked if I'd come and help take care of Lee and Amelia."

"You've been babysitting in Romania."

Ron nodded. "C'mon, let's go walk. We can't do anything here and I'm getting claustrophobic. I'd like to have a chance to talk to you."

Draco did roll his eyes at that. "Because we've always gotten along so swimmingly," he drawled. "A chat would be delightful."

"You don't have to be such an arse," Ron said, but he reached out his hand to pull on Draco's arm.

"Don't!" Draco said warningly. "Fine. I'll go on this walk, under two conditions. One, you don't tell me yet again how much you've changed. Two, you don't touch me."

"I was hoping to go to this place on the coast," Ron said apologetically. "I really miss seeing the ocean. I'd thought we could side-along Apparate."

An unexpected flare of pleasure burned in Draco's chest, surely residual from his non-Weasley wanking from a few nights prior. "Let me make sure that one of the Healers can get in touch with me in case Raven takes a turn either way. Meet me outside of St. Mungo's and we can discuss it. I'm perfectly capable of arriving at Apparition points by myself, you know."

"I know, I was just trying to be helpful."

Draco turned away, intending to seek out one of the Healers who he'd gotten to know during his months of recuperation when he heard Weasley say under his breath, "Don't know why I bother."

I don't either, Draco thought to himself. He cornered Hyacinth Kumar and forced his two-way mirror into her hands with the admonition that she contact him immediately if anything changed in Raven's condition. "Or Granger's," he said grudgingly.

"We'll cure them," Hyacinth promised, though Draco could see the doubt and worry in her expression.

"I'm counting on that."

Moments later Draco was outside under the unrelenting blue sky. Ron stood with his eyes closed, face turned upward like a plant to light. His tan had already faded significantly from their chance meeting nearly a fortnight ago. He turned to look over at Draco as he approached.

"Thanks for the company," he said, shoving his hands in his tracksuit bottoms' pockets.

Draco made a 'hmph'ing sound in response. "Look— why me? Why not drag Potter off to the beach? It's as though you've forgotten we spent our childhoods loathing each other. You were never this friendly even when we had to share a tent."

Ron appeared to think for a minute, chewing on his tongue. "Don't know how I can answer that, given your rule number one for our walk. Harry'll always be my best mate, but we don't have that much to say to each other right now, especially with Hermione being so sick. All we've been doing is look at each other, both pretty miserable. Without bringing up too much, I guess you could say I did a lot of thinking while I was gone."

"You were thinking while you surfed," Draco said sardonically.

"Yeah. Can we go? I'd rather be looking at the water, and hearing it. Um, about the touching thing."

"I prefer not to." Traitorous vision-memories of strong, freckled legs intertwined with his own came to his mind. Draco ruthlessly banished them.

Ron gave him a calculated look.

"Fine, Weasley," Draco said with a dramatic sigh. "If feel your life is incomplete without putting your arm around my waist, then so be it."

Ron stepped over to Draco, taking his hands out of his pockets. "We're going to Llangennith, western Langland Bay. I'm certain you'd get there on your own, but we might end up at opposite ends of the strand."

Draco impatiently took Ron's hand and placed the wide palm on his hip, waiting for the discomfort to overtake him. As though expecting the same, Ron looked over at him. Draco gave a small shrug.

"It's okay," he said, downplaying just how rare of an experience it was.

A smile bloomed on Ron's face and something strangely akin to longing bruised itself onto Draco's heart.

* * * * *

The beach was fairly nondescript, an expanse of placid water and wind.

"When the tide's right, this is actually a pretty decent place to surf," Ron said. He moved away from Draco, giving him the space Draco was desperate for after the unpleasant jolting of dual Apparition.

"Are you going to keep that up?" Draco asked disbelievingly. "Don't you need to work?"

"Of course, to both." Ron began walking, setting a slow pace as Draco joined him.

The waves were truly underwhelming, but the sound of them lapping on the shore was rather soothing. Draco hadn't been to many beaches, and they'd most often been on the Continent. His memories were of white crashing into endless blue, not the briny grey and tepid green here on the Welsh coast.

"Do you work? What've you done since the War?" Ron asked, his genuine tone making Draco want to be upfront with him, a mortifyingly disconcerting experience.

"I'm really not a man of mystery, Weasley." Draco inhaled deeply of the tangy air, his two-way mirror shifting against his hip with each step. He turned from the diaphanous meeting of sea to sky to look at Ron. He was so bloody expectant. "You really seem to care. I don't understand why."

Ron regarded him as they made a few more paces down the sand, its grating sound underfoot whisked away by the wind that kept tugging on Draco's ponytail.

"Does it matter?"

Of course it bloody well does! You're Weasley! Draco's instincts shouted, but another, cautiously curious voice said it wouldn't hurt to let Ron know a bit about Draco's life. It wasn't as though anyone else was clamouring to spend time with him, except for Raven…

"No. Perhaps not."

They talked for a couple of hours, walking and soaking in the salty haze of the chilly but bright midday. Draco explained his injuries and how Raven had helped him overcome most all of them and how he'd stumbled into getting involved with the Muggle stock market. Ron had taken a few detours to Australia including time spent with Bill and Fleur in Egypt. Once Down Under, Ron had spent days just watching the ocean, mentally and physically exhausted, at last taking notice of the buff blokes who went past him each day with their boards. He'd been living a hybrid Muggle and Wizarding life, keeping mostly to himself, excepting Harry and Hermione's visit. According to Ron, they'd come to grant him a reprieve of sorts. After the War was over, Ron had up and vanished, abandoning everyone who cared about him without a word as to where he was going, feeling that he had some kind of penance that could only be paid while alone. After his best friends had visited, at long last he'd felt he could return. And, in fact, he'd really not shagged the entire Order, or even one-quarter. He had, however, done his share of dicking around, which he wasn't proud of.

"Look, I should get back," Ron said, scuffing the toe of his trainer into the sand and looking down to meet Draco's gaze. "But I've enjoyed this. I'd gotten used to being a loner, too, so I hope I didn't really put you out. Can we do this again? We could come out and I could teach you to surf."

Draco snorted. "Never in a million years."

The hurt was obvious on Ron's face and Draco felt uncharacteristically sorry he'd been misunderstood. "No, that's just for the surfing. I'll watch you, if you like. It's a nice beach. I wouldn't be averse to coming here with you again."

"Brilliant."

There was that smile again, causing long-dormant wings of nervousness to flutter feebly in Draco's stomach. Or maybe he was simply hungry.

"See you later, then," Ron said, reaching out to squeeze Draco's shoulder.

Draco breathed deeply, his expanded ribcage allowing him to press minutely into Ron's warm palm. How was it that Ron's hands were never cold? Draco admonished himself for being ridiculous.

"See you," he said, crossing his chest with his arm so his hand rested on Ron's.

Ron looked inordinately pleased. "I'll owl, or firecall if that's okay." His eyes shone as he withdrew his hand.

"I'm sure I'll be seeing you at St. Mungo's," Draco said ruefully. "Hopefully we'll both be getting good news soon."

Ron nodded. With a crack! he vanished. Draco stared down at Ron's footprints for several minutes before returning to his hermitage.

* * * * *

Draco only left the hospital twice over the next two days, taking quick showers so that he could stand himself. He'd been keeping an eye out for Raven's family, and when he didn't see anyone recognisable, he tracked down a very frazzled Hyacinth to probe her for information.

"He married young, but his wife died not long after that in an accident," Hyacinth explained. "They didn't have any children, and he never remarried. It's so tragic," she said, tears welling in her eyes, though she blinked them back. "We're losing them, Draco. You'd best say your goodbyes."

"Fuck. Can I even get into his room? What about the quarantine?"

"I'll find somebody who can cast an Obstructio on you. Stay right here."

Moments later, a senior Healer escorted Draco to a surgical preparation area and cast a spell that essentially coated him from head to foot with a permeable, gossamer film that would allow him to enter Raven's room. He and Granger had been separated and put into separate rooms; Wizarding press were everywhere, already drafting extended obituaries and interviewing anyone around who would speak to them. From a distance, Draco saw Ron and Potter being taken to task. When someone from the Prophet came up to him, Draco firmly stated, "No comment."

"This way," the Healer said, taking Draco into Raven's room via a sequestered corridor. Once inside, the Healer had the graciousness to leave Draco alone. Raven looked horribly at peace, his ashen pallour making Draco queasy. Draco didn't have any words, so he carefully climbed into the bed, trusting implicitly in the barrier that had been cast on him. Miracles had been worked on Draco while in these nondescript rooms, and he believed they still could be for this man next to him, his breathing slow and ragged. Draco held Raven's hand to his chest, murmuring soft words of comfort and promise until he found himself falling to sleep.

"I'll be back," he promised, taking Raven's limp hand and pressing it to his cheek.

Draco was so overtired he collapsed into a set of garish orange chairs and slept, his knitting providing a pillow of sorts under his head. After a couple of hours he woke up, wishing for nothing more than his toothbrush and paste, as a cleansing charm didn't properly do the job. He sat up gracelessly, rubbing at his eyes when he saw Ron and Potter embracing across the room, obviously in distress.

Granger was dead. Raven wouldn't be far behind her.

Making a split-second decision, Draco ran his hand through the hair at his temple and went searching for Hyacinth.

"She's off for two days," the ridiculously happy front attendant said. "Care to leave her a message?"

"No."

Draco fled St. Mungo's, Apparating to his hermitage. Only once there did he allow himself to cry over the loss of his Healer and friend.

* * * * *

Drinking a pot of tea infused with a spot of brandy, Draco listened to Undersecretary Granger's funeral over his wireless. He'd gone to Raven's ceremony, an intimate gathering at St. Mungo's. It seemed as though the entirety of the hospital staff were there, and those who weren't, Draco assumed were former patients like himself. Granger's was a far larger affair, but Draco felt no need to attend. As the last notes of the final song died away, Draco found himself thinking about Ron. There wasn't anything he could say, but they shared a common loss nonetheless. The truth was, Draco missed him. It was daft and common and absolutely fucking insane. Draco paced his small house, warring with himself about contacting Weasley, and finally decided to go to the beach where they'd gone walking a few days prior. It was atypically cold enough that he could wear his new cabled pullover, completed during his vigil at St. Mungo's. He went into the bathroom to comb and braid his hair, wary of what the wind would do to it otherwise. Back in his kitchen, he got the bottle of brandy and took it with two glasses, just in case.

Once on the beach, he found himself mostly alone; the surf was far higher than before, and there were a few surfers taking advantage. Draco posited his goods on the sand, making himself comfortable under the silvery sky and otherwise imagining himself to be invisible. He poured himself a drink and had it before lying back, cradling his head in his hands and closing his eyes.

"Hey."

Draco suddenly woke up, feeling a faint shadow over his face.

"Weasley?"

"Ron. Please call me Ron. Can I have some of that?" Ron asked, gesturing to the brandy.

"Of course. Ron." Draco savoured the word on his tongue as he got his bearings and sat up. "I listened to Granger's funeral. My condolences."

Ron fiddled with the bottle and poured two glasses, handing one to Draco. "I'm no good with loss; I'm shite at it. How're you? I saw you with the Healer, lying in his bed even."

"Were you spying on me?" Draco said savagely, feeling vulnerable and out of sorts.

"No, it's not like that. I was looking for you and one of the Healers told me you'd gone to Abbott's room. He must've been unique. You held his hand."

Draco swallowed his brandy, looking at Ron's bloodshot eyes, only then taking in his attire.

"I did. But I've told you, he wasn't my lover. He just, well," Draco looked away, "he was comforting. I'm not a charity case, but there's not been a lot of that in my life." He turned back to Ron. "Are you going into the water, then? You seem to be covered in rubber."

Ron nodded. "It's a wetsuit. Water's still bloody cold. And yeah, I thought I would. Glad to see you here; I'd hoped maybe you'd show up."

Draco toasted Ron with his empty glass. "I'm here. Impress me."

"Don't know that I can do that, but you're welcome to watch."

With a sad, crooked smile, Ron picked up the surfboard he'd apparently thrust into the nearby sand and strode off into the water. Draco tried in vain not to focus on Ron's exquisitely shaped arse and muscular legs.

Bollocks.

It was a long, mournful afternoon. Draco drank his way through it, watching Ron surf and thinking about Raven. After a couple of hours Draco could sense what Ron was looking for in the waves, but he also felt relaxed as though he, too, were floating on the sea as Ron so often did. When Ron finally returned, he looked at the empty bottle and then Draco before mock-chastising him.

"Bad form, getting drunk on the beach."

"I've never done this before," Draco retorted. "You're obviously a bad influence."

"I didn't do anything!" Ron exclaimed. "I've been out there, thinking about all the things I'd wanted to tell Hermione. I suppose I bored you to tears."

"No, quite the opposite." Draco immediately wished his self-censor had been paying more attention.

"You watched, did you?"

"Yes. You're pretty amazing. I'd be arse-up and drowned if I tried half the shenanigans you just did."

Ron hunkered down next to Draco on the sand. "Well, yeah. At one time I wouldn't have minded seeing that. I could teach you now."

Draco shook his head. "No, I really don't want to learn. I'm quite content to watch. It's impossible not to look at you." Inwardly Draco cringed at yet another traitorous truth somehow loosed from his mouth.

Ron gazed at him, his red-rimmed eyes harbouring a profound sadness. "I think you should go home. Mind if I get you there?"

"I'm not nearly as far gone as I might appear," Draco said, grateful that he wasn't slurring his words. "Thank you for the offer, though. Care to have dinner next week?"

In that moment, Draco knew he was actually much farther gone than he himself realised if he'd asked Ron to dinner.

"Love to. Thursday?"

Draco nodded. "I'll owl you." He got uneasily up to his feet and found himself in Ron's arms in a rather soggy embrace.

"Come out again," Ron said into Draco's ear, sending shivers down his spine. "We don't have to go to dinner, especially if it'll make you uncomfortable. I'd like for us to learn to be friends."

"Friends," Draco parroted as Ron's arms held him.

* * * * *

They did go to dinner. Draco took Ron to the place he loved most, the Belligerent Badger. Draco fought off the heartsickness he felt of being there without Raven, but he had a sense that the Healer would've approved of his dinner companion. Why he wasn't sure, though Raven often spoke of serendipitous parallels and this seemed to fall into such a category, despite it being twisted and contradictory. It was Weasley, after all. Despite that being the case, Ron's company wasn't overly awkward and they actually had a fair amount to talk about. The next thing he knew, Draco had invited Ron over the following Saturday for an afternoon of flying around the Manor grounds.

"Thank you," Ron said graciously. "I'd love to. Surf should be brilliant tomorrow; care to meet me at Llangennith?"

"Sure. What time?"

"The earlier the better. Aren't you a night owl, though?"

Draco briefly wondered how Ron had drafted such an opinion before remembering their brief shared time as tentmates during the War.

"Not so much. Actually prefer the mornings, when not trying to save my own skin. Around eight, then?"

Ron nodded, and Draco found himself mentally whipping himself for thinking about what trousers he could wear that were the most flattering. As though Weasley would care. They were going to attempt to be friends, Ron had made that clear. Draco's undercurrent of wishes were unconscionable; he was decidedly not falling for Ronald Weasley. The man was his childhood nemesis and had been a reckless nightmare at the end of the War. He had freckles everywhere but also the longest, most luscious legs Draco had ever seen on a human being.

"I'm so glad I ran into you. Almost literally," Ron said.

As he smiled, Draco noticed Ron's chipped front tooth and knew that he wanted to taste it with his tongue. The quicksand of Draco's desires drew him under as he fought against them; he didn't even have time for a last gasp.

"Me, too."

* * * * *

Nothing happened.

Well, that wasn't true; Draco and Ron began spending lots of time together, and Draco took comfort in their unhurried shared healing processes after Raven and Hermione's deaths. Of the various environments they frequented, the beach at Llangennith was a favourite of Draco's, especially once he'd perfected his sun block charms. As spring warmed into summer they spent several days a week there, Draco knitting and watching Ron surf. There were other handsome men, to be sure, but they paled in comparison to Ron's vivid colouring and statuesque build. While Ron took the initiative in many of their get-togethers, whether at the beach or having dinner at the Badger or even going to the Burrow on a Sunday afternoon for Molly to ooh and ahh over Draco's skilled knitting techniques and exclusive yarns, Draco slowly and tortuously forced himself to try and internalise the fact that Ron didn't appear to be interested in being more than friends. Granted, Draco hadn't been involved with very many men. Ron was perplexing, and Draco spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what was going on in the other man's head. From his school days Draco knew what it felt like to be looked as desirously, even lustfully. He was nearly certain he saw flickers of longing commingled with affection as he and Ron watched Quidditch at Ron's flat, or across their ubiquitous charmed cooler of ales at the beach, and he would've sworn that Ron went out of his way to touch Draco, but it was never sexual.

Draco's wanking life transformed itself into an all-Ron panoply of situations and wished-for fantasies. It made an otherwise awe-inspiring night of star-gazing at the beach an exhausting experience; it took all of Draco's pride to keep from flinging himself on top of Ron's wide chest, grinding his darkness-hidden erection into Ron's groin and snogging him into next week. To top it off, in a scandalous romantic fit, Draco began knitting Ron a cabled vest. He searched until he found a scrumptious wool/silk mix the colour of the changeable Welsh surf, emulative of Ron's eyes: a bittersweet blue.

Despite himself, over time Draco found he'd long passed across the threshold of 'just friends' into a deep yearning for Ronald B. Weasley, part-time Quidditch coach and scourge from his youth. It had been caused by a menagerie of the smallest things: Ron didn't interrupt him mid-sentence, and looked him directly in the eye when they spoke; once discovered, he indulged Draco in his secret obsession for orange-flavoured dark chocolate; Ron was always perfectly punctual for their engagements; he even tried to learn to knit. Ron did appear especially thankful when Draco suggested some other hobby might suit him better given Ron's tendency quickly to lose his patience and that he had such meaty fingers.

Draco finally reprimanded himself to use his Malfoy bollocks before they dropped off and find out what Ron's true motivations were. In mid-August, rather spontaneously, Ron invited him to join he and Potter for a weekend of camping. Having never been camping before, Draco jumped at the chance, also figuring he could ply Potter for as much knowledge as possible. After a full evening of Wizard poker and increasingly-drunken rounds of "I Never" in which Draco imbibed the most, oddly enough being the least experienced man in the group, he quickly interrogated Potter as side by side they relieved themselves on a tree.

"He spends all his free time with you!" Potter said. Surprised, his aim jerked toward Draco's yellow stream. "Aren't you seeing each other?"

"Did he tell you that?" Draco asked, placing a hand on the tree trunk to steady himself.

"No. Just seemed that way. Oh. You're not?" Potter seemed mortified.

"No. Not that I know, anyway." Draco shook off some lingering drops, wondering at how inside-out the world had become if he was actually having this conversation with Harry Potter, both of them shit-faced and cocks out.

"Sorry. But I just thought—"

"It's okay. Just don't mention it, alright?"

Potter nodded vigorously as he tucked himself back in.

Draco spent his night lying on his back, his head ringing with the alcohol he'd drunk and wishing that Ron had wanted to crawl into his tent.

* * * * *

Draco invited Ron out to dinner the following night, a nice Greek restaurant that had the best baklava he'd tasted outside of Greece itself. He pre-arranged for a table in a back alcove so they could have some privacy. At the end of the meal, Draco savoured the melt away sweet pastry and nuts with a cup of strong coffee. Ron sipped on his ouzo while reliving some of the less risqué moments from their weekend of camping. From the occasional low roiling in his stomach, Draco knew he was more nervous about being upfront with Ron than he'd let on to himself. He gazed at Ron's face, at the faded scar that traversed his left cheek, at the glinting copper speckling his jaw from having not shaved for three days, at his full lips, so different from Draco's own. Ron smiled at him, a slow, gentle upturning of his mouth, his eyes focused on Draco's face. When Draco remained silent, worry ghosted across Ron's expression.

"You okay?" he asked.

Draco nodded. Merlin's balls; he was Draco Malfoy, and no matter what other people thought, Draco knew he was a catch. Ron would be crazy not to want to take things to a far more intimate level; surely Draco wasn't misreading Ron's subtle but constant affections.

"Ron, can I ask a question?"

"Sure. What's on your mind?"

Draco fiddled with his serviette before looking Ron directly in the face. Gods, you're handsome, he thought.

"It's been very surprising to me, but I've really enjoyed getting to know you," he said, shock flooding him when he saw Ron's face fall. "What?" Draco exclaimed, his heart thudding in his chest. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Well, just sounds like the kind of talk that's usually followed by the person saying they don't want to hang around you anymore. Reckon you're seeing someone. It's understandable," Ron said plaintively, reaching for his liqueur and trying to mask his obvious hurt.

"No! No, Ron, I—" He reached out, placing his hand on top of Ron's, relishing the warmth as he squeezed the large knuckles. "I want you, Ron. I want to be more than friends." Draco's eloquent speech about why Ron should see him in a different light flew out of his head faster than a rushing Snitch. "You're honest. You're on time. You look bloody amazing out on the water and I hope I'm not totally wrong in thinking that you've looked at me and maybe imagined us being together. I want us to be together. Naked together," Draco said at last, the words hushed and drizzled slowly into the muffled ambiance of the restaurant. "For weeks, or months, now, I've wanted you."

Ron tilted his head, seemingly searching Draco's expression for any hint of deception. After an interminable time, he curled his fingers around Draco's. He appeared relieved, but still cautious. "If we're going to be honest, you should know that I did want to get in your trousers during the War. Mostly as a conquest, though, and I knew you'd say no. It wasn't until I had time away, and then saw you again, there was just something…" His voice faded before he turned his full gaze onto Draco, his usual exuberance manifest in his features. "Even when I hated you, years ago, there was something about you. It takes something really fucking unique to love someone, or feel so much hatred you want to smash their face in. When I saw you curled up next to that Healer in St. Mungo's, I realised there was heaps more to you than you were probably ever going to share, but I was desperate to know. You can't imagine how hard it's been not to do anything. Not shag you senseless or let you know how much I wanted you to stay the night. I thought if anything was going to happen, it had to be on your terms, if at all."

Heat flashed through Draco as he revisited his myriad self-pleasuring scenarios, damning himself for not saying something sooner. "I've been wanking to you for a long time," he admitted sheepishly.

"I hope I was good," Ron said with a bit of a leer.

"Incredible. But Ron, you were so bloody careful, never doing anything obvious. Why not?"

"Like I said, I didn't want to push my luck. You don't like people touching you. We'd never been friends; I figured I'd take my time and see if you'd ever be interested in me." Ron scratched at his temple and Draco made up his mind to bring Ron back to his hermitage as quickly as possible.

"I'm definitely interested," Draco said, raising Ron's hand to his lips and running his tongue along the knobbed joints. "In all of you. I want you to come home with me."

Ron made a wounded sound, looking covetously at his hand before regarding Draco with vast wonder. "I've never been to your mini Manor," he said, downing the last of his ouzo and trying to shift around the table to get closer to Draco.

"Hermitage," Draco clarified. "We'll side-along Apparate. Let's go."

He paid and they exited the restaurant as quickly as possible. Once in the empty side alley, Draco pulled Ron to him, his whole body seeming to throb as he raised his hands to cup Ron's face. Ron leaned down so their lips finally touched. His mouth was partway open so Draco could smell the licorice on his breath. The blood rushed to Draco's erection as he slid his tongue along Ron's lips. Draco moaned needily when Ron sent his large, hot tongue into his mouth. Draco was being devoured. He wanted to feast on all of Ron, to swallow his fiery essence even as he ground his hips against Ron's groin. The kiss was greedy and hungry, and as Draco plundered Ron's mouth he hoped it conveyed how famished Draco was for attention. Eventually he drew back, breathing heavily and hearing the blood pound in his ears. Ron looked slightly dazed, licking at his lips while moving his hands down Draco's sides. Draco sensed the untamed desire held taut just under Ron's exterior and groaned when Ron insinuated his hand between them, his thumb rubbing Draco's hard arousal above his trousers.

"You taste amazing," Ron said.

"Gods, we've got to go. Now," Draco gasped before stealing a quick kiss, sucking Ron's lower lip into his mouth. Ron had closed his eyes, cupping Draco and making low, desperate sounds that rumbled up from his chest and somehow reverberated in Draco's cock. Draco's knees threatened to buckle, the intensity of pleasure of feeling someone next to him, of Ron pressed against him, making him come undone. "Please, Ron," he pleaded.

Ron grudgingly stepped away, moving his arm to place it behind Draco's back. "I'm going to make you feel so good," he said throatily against the side of Draco's head. "I'll get on my knees and fucking worship you."

Draco let out a strangled cry. He tried to corral his wild thoughts so he could focus on his bedroom. "Ready?" he asked, looking over at Ron.

Ron nodded slowly, his warm expression full of promise. With a loud crack! they Apparated.

Once in his house, Draco was momentarily at a loss. He hadn't really cleaned, hadn't done so many things…

"Don't think," Ron admonished gently, leaning down to capture Draco's mouth in a searing kiss. "Feel, Draco," he said, the words crushed against Draco's lips.

"Not thinking," Draco insisted, kneading his fingers into Ron's arse. "I want to get you out of your clothes. I want to see all of you, feel all of you."

"You've seen almost all of it before," Ron said with a low laugh into Draco's ear. Draco swatted him on his bum.

"I know," Draco said, licking at the hollow of Ron's throat as he unbuttoned his shirt. "But I've had to look and not touch. Before I just ogled and dreamed. And wanked."

Ron chuckled, assisting Draco by pulling off his shirt while Draco tended to Ron's button and flies. "Well, you're not alone in that."

Ron's earlier comment was true; Draco had been watching Ron surf in the summer in the briefest of swimming attire, noticing his return to the same bronze colour he'd had when Ron had first ventured across each Draco's path. But everything was different now; they were together in his house, and at last Draco would be able to lay hands and lips and tongue all over Ron's muscular body. He pulled down the black trousers and plain y-fronts, at last gazing on Ron's starkly white groin, his auburn thatch of curls in vivid relief against his pale, stiffening cock. Draco couldn't help it; he dropped to his knees, for once regretting his wooden floors, and leaned his face into the masculine, heady scent that wafted through his senses.

"Oh gods," Ron said with a catch in his voice, his wide palms massaging Draco's head. Desire and lust frissoned through Draco and he felt as though he were drunk. Grasping the back of Ron's strong thighs, he sent out his tongue to swipe around the head, giddiness ricocheting through him as he sucked more of the hard shaft into his mouth. Ron was large but not monstrously so, and while it had been a long time since Draco had had the indulgence of having a cock in his mouth, Ron was inspiring. It didn't take him long to figure out what brought Ron the most pleasure.

"Draco, oh fuck, so good, oh yes, just like that," Ron groaned above him, moving his hips to facilitate Draco swallowing him nearly to the root.

Draco was in a testosterone-induced stupor, slurping and sucking the vinegar-sweet skin, sending his tongue into the slit at the top of Ron's shaft and drowning in Ron's invective-laden praise. He ached with euphoria, his own cock straining against his trousers, but Draco couldn't bear to take his hands away from Ron's furred legs to touch himself.

"Stop," Ron begged, causing Draco to look up in surprise. "You feel too good; I'm already about to come."

"But I want you to," Draco managed around the wide shaft, a pleading smile on his stretched lips.

Ron growled, there was no other word for it, and Draco knew he'd won. He set back to his succulent task, and a few seconds later, his mouth and throat were filled with bittersweet fluid. Draco swallowed it down, relishing the tangy flavour and Ron's raw cries as Draco milked him through his long release. At last he sat back on his heels, feeling his own heart slow its hammering pace as he rested his head against Ron's softening cock.

"Draco," Ron said, his voice infused with awe. "Come up here." Draco allowed himself to be helped up from the floor and clasped against Ron's chest. "You're fucking amazing," Ron said, running one hand in tender circles at the base of Draco's spine and undoing Draco's hair tie with the other. "But you're wearing way too many clothes. How am I supposed to have you yelling my name when you're still totally dressed?"

Draco leaned his head back, feeling his hair's weight on his upper back and looking at the reverence that blazed in Ron's eyes. Draco was unhinged. "Strip me, then," he said, hearing the urgency in his voice and not caring.

"Gladly."

Draco's clothes were quickly removed. He stood, watching Ron take in what parts of him had been hidden before. He'd worn long swim trunks on occasion during the summer, so there wasn't that much that Ron hadn't seen; his genitals, arse, and a few more scars. Ron seemed to find Draco very appealing, which was a good thing.

"Care to go to the bed?" Draco asked as he stepped back to over to Ron. Draco nuzzled and sucked on Ron's collarbone, making a wordless groan when Ron's hand encircled his steely cock. Ron slid his palm up and down, twisting slightly and turning his head to nip at Draco's mouth. Draco opened his lips, fervently kissing Ron and lapping around his tongue. The passion of Ron's enthusiasm jolted straight to Draco's cock, which jerked in Ron's hand. When the wide fingers released him to fondle Draco's heavy sacs, Draco let out a frustrated cry.

"Bed! Or did you want to suck me standing up?" He'd not meant to be so blunt, but the blood had gone from his brain to his prick and he'd long ago ceased self-censoring.

Ron moved his fingers to encircle Draco's cock, but he moved back slightly so they could see each other's eyes. "That wasn't actually what I had in mind," he said.

"It wasn't?" Draco was disappointed. The truth was, he wasn't at all sure what they'd do; he hadn't thought that far. He'd always imagined Ron sucking him and/or fucking him into the mattress, or binding him to the bed, but having the man in person with his fingers around his cock made things much more intense and uncertain.

"No," Ron said. He looked almost apprehensive. "I want you. Want you in me."

Draco's eyes widened and he pressed his palms on Ron's hairy chest. "I've not been with many blokes, you know that," he said. "And I've never done things that way."

"Neither have I."

Draco swallowed, circling the brown nubs of Ron's nipples with his fingers. "The first time you have someone's cock up your arse, you want it to be me?"

A pensive smile meandered onto Ron's lips. "Yeah. It hadn't seemed appealing before, but over the past few months I can't get the thought out of my mind. I've been experimenting with some toys, if you know what I mean."

Ron seemed so earnest, and Draco was achingly hard.

"So." Draco tugged at Ron's nipples until he winced. "Sorry. I just…" He moved his hands to slide down Ron's back until he could press their groins together. "You. Really?"

"Really." Ron seemed to reconcile myriad thoughts within himself before he spoke again. "But we don't need to do that. If you don't want to, there're loads of other ways—"

"If you'll promise to stay to fuck me until I'm sore, I will," Draco purred against Ron's jaw.

"As long as you wake me up, I'll do anything."

"Done, you big hedonist."

Draco felt an unexpected euphoria in being He Who Was Going To Bugger Ron Senseless For The First Time, and no small amount of trepidation. Draco had barely been able to stand most people's touch for several years; his fingers trembled as he poured his sage-scented lubricant on them. Ron placed a couple of pillows under his head while Draco found himself poised as a supplicant yet again at Ron's fiery temple. Grounding himself, Draco licked his left palm and stroked his throbbing cock while he ventured into Ron's tight entrance with two fingers of his other hand. He'd done some of this with other men, and there was a part of him that really wanted to lick inside those hot muscles, but not right now. The anticipation of being sheathed inside of Ron, caring, genuine, gorgeously edible Ron, made him nearly dizzy. Wanting to make sure Ron was fully prepared, he pushed in three fingers, seeking out the small gland that made his own body explode with pleasure. Draco smiled gleefully when Ron swore a particularly colourful stream of words and dropped his legs onto the bed.

"Ron," Draco said, dragging himself up so that he had one hand anchored on the coverlet and the other holding his prick at Ron's loosened but still-clenching hole. "I think you're ready. Do you still want this? It can be pretty overwhelming."

"Yeah." For emphasis, Ron placed his hands on the inside of his copper-dazzled knees, pulling them out to the side. "Want to feel you so deep, see how you look when you come."

Draco moaned at the words. Ron's gaze felt heavy on him as he pushed past the well-lubricated ring of muscle. He pressed in partway, pausing to let Ron's body adjust to the invasion as well as his own. It felt unreal, the pressure and slick-tight warmth squeezing against his cock. He looked up to see Ron's expression; a grimace had settled onto his features.

"Push against me," Draco panted, his thoughts flickering back briefly to his first few awkward experiences and the burning pain which inevitably turned to pleasure. After a few seconds he was fully inside Ron, stretched against him. "Fuck, Ron, you feel amazing. So tight, Merlin," he gasped, wriggling his hips slightly, exploring the confines of the hot channel and seeing Ron's face slowly relax.

"Pretty fucking amazing all right," Ron said, raising his hands to Draco's shoulders. "Now move. Want you pumping in me, riding me."

Draco appeared capable of chanting nothing but profanity sprinkled with guttural noises as he pulled out and in, thrusting at an increasing pace. Ron alternately closed his eyes, seemingly to focus on what he was feeling, or staring heatedly at Draco. Ron's feral look made Draco feel that he was the one being claimed, despite their positions. He felt incredible; every nerve seemed to flit fire through him, zinging back to settle in his sacs. Ron began pulling on his slowly-awakening erection, focusing on Draco with a possessive satisfied look that was like salve to a long-festering wound deep in Draco's spirit. A crescendoing litany of "oh"s and "oh Ron"s poured ecstatically from Draco's mouth. He was so close. The burst of his climax shocked him and he bellowed, the waves of release pulsing jerkily from him as he breathed heavily, open-mouthed.

Ron appeared astonished and he clenched his arse muscles around Draco's sensitive shaft. He opened his mouth as though to say something but then changed his mind, instead taking his hand off his torpid erection and running a finger down Draco's flushed face. Draco felt an inexplicable need to kiss Ron, so he did, leaning down to nip at Ron's lips before sending his tongue into Ron's mouth for a long, languorous reacquaintance. He felt his softening cock begin its inexorable exit and sighed regretfully before drawing back. In the ensuing quiet he shifted down onto his side, shamelessly draping an arm and leg over Ron. Ron intuited what Draco wanted, urging Draco up so he could put an arm underneath him before holding him against his torso. Draco lay in a sated lassitude, the slow beating of Ron's heart thudding under his ear. It felt like a homecoming to Draco, being sprawled naked on this man who'd been in his life for so many years, though he also felt dreadfully exposed. He wasn't daft; he wasn't about to declare undying anything. He didn't know what to do next, or what Ron might hope or expect.

"Cleansing spell?" Draco said, lifting his head to look at Ron and feeling discomfited that he couldn't tell what Ron was thinking.

Ron nodded and Draco cast it silently, inwardly glad that it didn't remove the lingering musky smells of their recent sex. He placed his head back down on Ron's chest, sheltered and tired and trying to ignore the undercurrents of fear let loose in him like a flooded stream. Thank Merlin Ron didn't seem to be chatty post-shagging, although Draco wished Ron would say something, especially along the lines of, "That was brilliant; can I stay?"

Hades' harpies, this was his house. Draco spoke the words even as his sex-addled mind thought them. "Would you like to spend the night?" he asked, raising up and noticing Ron's slightly hurt expression.

"Thought I'd already been invited."

"Oh! Right. That was what I intended. Just didn't know if you'd accepted or not."

"Yeah. I'd really like that. I'll, well, need to transfigure a toothbrush or something. Unless you have a spare."

Draco shook his head ruefully. "I've been solo a while."

Gratitude drifted warmly through Draco as they got ready for bed, doing totally mundane things newly wrapped in profundity when in the company of someone else. While Ron went to the toilet, Draco redid the low-grade wards around his hermitage before sliding back into bed. Once Ron had put on his pants and climbed in with an almost embarrassed grin on his face, Draco spelled out the remaining candles.

"I hope you don't regret this," Ron rumbled, spooned up behind Draco, his furred chest a comforting heat against Draco's back.

"Regret? Why?" Draco's instinctive defensiveness came roaring to the fore.

"Well, I don't do it much anymore, but I used to be a notorious bed traveler."

"Bed traveler?" Draco intertwined his fingers in Ron's splayed hand and held it to his chest, relaxing again.

"Yeah. I'd be dreaming and thrash about, sometimes ending up with my feet at my pillow and the covers twisted every which way. Dean even drew a couple of quick sketches of me when I was in particularly humorous positions back at our dorm in Hogwarts."

Draco snorted sleepily. "Well, I'll chance it. Good night."

"G'night."

Draco eased into an untroubled, contended sleep.

* * * * *

He was rocking on the water, face turned upward to the stalwart sun, limbs akimbo and draped over his boat. Why did the waves keep hitting him insistently? With a grunt, Draco expressed his disapproval at the earth's botherments, kicking at the ocean.

"Draco. Hey."

Disgruntled and out of sorts, Draco turned on his side, reaching out for a pillow to put between his knees. All at once, with the force of a wide-flung door he remembered where he was and who it was who would have said such things to him. He quickly opened his eyes. Ron crouched alongside the bed, fully dressed, and leaving.

"I was going to go out, but you've put up wards. Care to lower them?"

A vitriolic avalanche of disbelief and betrayal crashed down, suffocating Draco's heart. Draco heard what he was going to yell at Ron in his head: You fucking traitorous WEASEL. If ever I see you again, you'll know what it feels like to writhe under a Sectumsempra.

"Draco. Draco!! Fucking Merlin!"

Ron scrabbled backward until he crashed into a chair.

Draco clenched his eyes shut, willing his wandless magic to contain its maelstrom around himself, at least for the moment.

"I just wanted to go and get some groceries for breakfast," Ron said in alarm. "Circe's tits! All you have is tea, and breakfast is the best meal you'll get out of me. You'll remember, I hope, that whole bit about me wanting to be with you, right? I wasn't lying. You've got to believe me."

Jaw clenched, Draco took in the sight in front of him. Ron was backed against a particularly bumpy chair leg, his expression a mixture of pleading and resignation. Draco breathed in deeply a few more times, grounding himself and realising with chagrin that he'd really overreacted.

"Fine," he ground out through clenched teeth. "No. I'm sorry. Sorry. I just assumed the worst, as I tend to do. It's not your fault."

Ron let out a deep breath and put his hands in his lap, evidently waiting for Draco to go on.

"I know I'm being ridiculous." Draco shook his head. He'd assumed Ron was leaving, and Draco had cracked. He was embarrassed for himself. "It'll probably be ages before I really trust you, or anyone." Draco felt there was nothing left to lose, so he went on with his exposé. "I can live happily alone. Thrive, really, but it seems much less appealing since you've come along."

Draco watched Ron make some kind of inner resolution before speaking. "I don't expect you to suddenly change, especially given our past. But I need you to believe that I'm not out to hurt you. I want the opposite, if you'll let me. Fuck," he said with an embarrassed smile. "I'm no good at conversations like this; I'm pretty much pants at expressing my feelings in words. May I show you how I feel?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes," Draco whispered, opening his arms in invitation.

Ron quickly undressed and crawled into the bed next to Draco, kissing him deeply despite Draco's morning breath. Normally Draco didn't do anything until he brushed his teeth, but given what Ron was doing with his tongue and fingers, Draco decided it could wait. Ron kissed and nuzzled his way down Draco's torso, telling him how gorgeous he was, how he was going to be so deep inside of him, how long he'd been imaging what Draco would look like when he came, fucking him so that he forgot anybody else. Draco pulled on his hard cock, moaning and spreading his legs wide when Ron lay down, suckling at his sacs and breathing deeply of Draco's scent. Draco felt a brief tingle inside himself as Ron cast a hurried cleansing spell before Accio'ing their lubricant, which flew up from the floor to his hand.

"You're going to feel so good," Ron rumbled, pouring the unguent on his fingers.

"Oh fuck, Ron. Yes, gods," he hissed, writhing against Ron's clever digits as they circled his entrance and then lazily pushed in. Draco surrendered to Ron's ministrations to his hole and channel, letting out a broken howl when Ron shuffled up to swirl his tongue around the head of Draco's shaft. Ron was groaning with pleasure, his tongue teasingly licking around the sensitive skin. A pang of gratitude and a sense of profound affection raced through Draco's chest, and for a moment he found himself on the verge of tears, but he blinked them back.

Moments later Draco watched spellbound, as Ron sat back on his heels, a wild, possessive look on his flushed face. He coated his thick erection, eyeing Draco hungrily.

"In me now, Ron," Draco panted, throwing his arms back over his head to hold onto the headboard.

Ron placed the head of his cock at Draco's entrance and pushed. They groaned in tandem as Ron slowly slid inside. It was as intense as their lovemaking from hours before and Draco almost couldn't bear to believe just how satisfied and happy Ron seemed. "So full," Draco sighed as Ron came down on his hands, hovering above Draco and looking at him as though being inside him was the most amazing thing he'd ever felt.

"I — want — you — Draco," Ron said, punctuating each word with a forceful thrust, changing his angle until Draco cried out as he slid past his prostate. "Believe — me?"

"Yes, yes, Merlingodsfuckyes," Draco yelled, wrapping his legs around to pull Ron even tighter into him. Ron was relentlessly plunging into him, his sweat-slick fringe swaying as he rocked in and out. Drowning in sensation, Draco closed his eyes. He rocked his hips, imagining how he looked, his greedy muscles squeezing around Ron's large prick, Draco's hand pumping his own cock as the tension spiraled inexorably through his shaft. When Ron leaned down to suck on Draco's pebbled nipple, Draco gasped and opened his eyes.

"You're close, aren't you?" Ron said, his voice rough with the tension of his own inevitable release. "You're so tight. I can't wait to feel you squeeze around me when you come."

"Ahhhhhh!" Draco wailed, Ron's words bringing him to the edge as he climaxed, warm fluid spurting over his abdomen. Waves of pleasure starting at his cock radiated all through him, the currents of release so powerful he suddenly found himself sneezing.

"Bless you! Draco, fuck, so good, have to come," Ron gasped before moaning, throaty and low.

It was one of the most erotic noises Draco had ever heard. Even as he felt Ron's release far inside of him, Draco had to run his hand under his nose. He sniffed, feeling slightly mortified that he'd had a sneezing fit right after one of the best orgasms he'd had with another person.

"You okay?" Ron asked, slowly lowering himself down and tugging Draco toward him. Draco stretched out his legs as Ron rolled them gently to their sides.

"Yes. I'm unwilling to believe I'm allergic to mind-blowing sex."

Ron laughed, his expression one of uncluttered mirth. "Well, I must say I've never had that effect on anyone before."

"Good," Draco said spitefully, thinking briefly of Ron's former lovers. "I want your experiences with me to be unique and memorable."

"You're memorable, all right," Ron said, adjusting his hips as his spent cock eased out of Draco's body. "Thought you were going to hex me into next year not twenty minutes ago."

"You bring out pretty powerful reactions in me, you always have." Draco smoothed his fingers over Ron's unruly eyebrows. "I guess it goes without saying that I'm possessive by nature. If we're going to do this, you can't dick around on me."

Ron ran his thumb and forefinger along Draco's leather bracelet before languidly spinning it. Early in their time spent together he'd given Draco a slight ribbing at his shock of discovering that Draco was sentimental about it or anything else. He'd subsequently been force-fed a three-course meal of Draco's wrath. From that point on, Ron had treated Draco's only piece of constant apparel with a reverence that nearly equaled Draco's.

"I've told you, and hopefully with what we just did you could tell how I feel about you. We'd been getting on really well without this stuff," Ron said suggestively, stretching forward to give Draco a chaste kiss, "but I'd say we're pretty bloody compatible in the physical category. I'm not about to run off and cheat on you; I want you exclusively to myself."

"Glad to hear it," Draco said. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply of Ron's scent, a mixture of musky sweat, a lingering briny smell from hours spent in the ocean, and eucalyptus from the lotion he put on his always-dry skin. Ron's stomach growled loudly. Draco snickered, opening his eyes to see an apologetic look on Ron's face.

"I was going out to get some food," he reminded Draco with a crooked smile.

"Sounds as though you should. I'll dismantle the wards and get a quick shower while you're out. And make tea. I make dazzlingly brilliant tea," Draco said in his most smoky voice.

Ron raised his eyebrows. "I've no doubt."

Within a few moments, Ron was back on his mission of obtaining foodstuffs and Draco was lathering himself up under the punishing yet soothing heat of his high-pressure showerhead. It promised to be a warm day from the breezes that fluttered in through the open windows, but Draco preferred his showers scorching no matter the time of year.

Once dried and dressed, he padded into the kitchen, running his fingers through his wet hair as he put on the kettle. He'd not cut his hair in ages; while it was a bit reminiscent of his father, Draco hadn't grown it out to emulate Lucius. He simply liked having it long, another element to himself that he'd considered prosaic but he suspected Ron found erotic.

He'd just sat down to his first cup of tea and knitted halfway across a row of Ron's vest when Ron appeared with a loud crack! next to the stove, two sacks of groceries in his arms. Draco slowed his hand motions.

"Pixie's piss," Draco swore as Ron brandished the goods he'd bought. "I thought cooking wasn't really your thing," he said, surprised at the amount of food Ron had come back with.

Draco had been to Ron's cramped flat at least thrice-weekly for some time, but he'd resisted most of Ron's offers to cook. There'd not appeared to be much of any pantry space, for one, and Ron let loose in a kitchen… it simply had defied Draco's imagination.

"It isn't, but I do make an excellent skillet breakfast, which I'm planning on sharing. Oi!" he said abruptly, stopping his carefully orchestrated unpacking. "I've not seen that wool before. Who's it for? You don't fancy blue, told me yourself ages ago."

Draco watched Ron resume his motions, placing a carton of eggs on the countertop while Draco fingered the silky strands. He screwed his lips to one side, debating what to say.

"It's for you," Draco admitted. "Looked all over for a colour that reminded me of your eyes, and the ocean. All that romantic, sentimental tripe that usually makes me ill. You've made an indelible impression on me," he said, regarding the intertwining cables and the carefully mapped out, enlarged pattern resized to fit Draco's guestimation of Ron's chest. He'd had plenty of time to admire that part of Ron's figure, and he could nearly guarantee the vest would fit Ron perfectly worn above a button down, or t-shirt. He was so caught up in his reverie that he was startled when he felt Ron behind him, his sturdy fingers threading through Draco's still-damp hair.

"I'm so flattered," Ron murmured against the crown of Draco's head. "Honoured, more like. I mean, mum's knitted heaps of jumpers for me, but that's different."

Draco shifted in his chair, wincing ever so slightly at his tender arse. He smiled to himself, thinking back to Ron's earnest and thorough fucking from just over an hour ago.

"We're different, Ron," Draco said with a huffed laugh. He was grateful that he didn't have to use flowery words to explain just how content he was in that moment, sequestered away with his own firebrand.

"Different good?" Ron clarified, nuzzling Draco's hair.

Draco cradled his head against the hollow of Ron's throat.

"Different exceedingly good."

.:~:.


Author's Notes
The title comes from an Emily Brontë quote, taken from Wuthering Heights: "I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind." Bottomless thanks to my betas and Brit-pickers, Pirate Queen, wolfiekins and matildabishop. To the one-third of my OT3 who read this in bits and snatches along the way, your comments and insights were invaluable. Thank you, dear heart.

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