could feel the smile as it slid onto his lips, tugging at the left
corner as he slid a cigarette out of the pack. He'd become a
moderate fan of Anson Astrolabe after Harry had drug him off to one of
his concerts a few months ago. Ron hadn't really known what to make
of the bloke, strutting and practically sliding all over the stage, his
long auburn hair falling all over his thin upper body, covered in
tattoos both Muggle and wizard. Had a decent voice, though, and Ron had
found himself crooning along with him more than once.
He took a pull on his cigarette, breathing deeply as the acrid air tickled down his throat before blowing it out of the side of his mouth. He half sang along with the song, helping himself to some more of his firewhiskey and tapping a finger on the bar.
"Those are really bad for you, y'know," a familiar voice said to his right. Ron whipped his head around, grinning up at Harry as he slid down onto the barstool next to him.
"You'd know," he replied, offering the pack.
Harry lit one of his own and ordered a Cauldron Bottom.
Ron grimaced. "Don't know how you can like those."
"Don't know why you don't," Harry retorted. He turned and looked Ron over, causing a faint sparking of self-awareness to buzz through him, settling most unfortunately in his groin. "Not to be making fun, if you are, but are you in mourning or something? You're beginning to remind me of Snape, and that's just not right, mate."
Rolling his eyes, Ron ordered a final shot of firewhiskey and a Skullsplitter. "No, I'm not. I just, well, it's that "
Harry snickered and took a sip of his lurid cocktail.
"Well, it's not like I grew up wearing a wide range of clothes, now is it?" he said defensively, lighting another cigarette. "We had a uniform at Hogwarts, we had a uniform for the Order, and I had a uniform at the Ministry. Now I'm stuck dressing myself. Black matches. 'S what Langford says, anyway," he muttered more to himself than to his best friend.
"Sorry. Only making you take the piss. You look quite good in black, actually," Harry said, patting him reassuringly on his thigh. "Who's Langford?"
Ron was surprised at the hint of annoyance in Harry's voice.
"Langford? Over in Marketing. Kind of skinny, accent that's as strong as Seamus' was; a decent bloke."
"Was he at that party for the Green Knights?"
Ron wracked his brain. The entire staff of both Quagmire's Quidditch Quarterly and Broom Enthusiast had been there, so the question was easy enough to answer, but he had no idea who Harry was imagining. It was obvious that he didn't seem to be to keen on whomever it was, but he didn't know why.
"Yeah, but so were loads of people."
"Only one couldn't keep his eyes off you."
At that, Ron turned and looked at Harry straight on. "I don't follow."
The stormy look on Harry's face faded into one of open affection. "I know. Kind of funny, really. People perv on you a lot, but you never notice."
Ron snorted into his bottle at that comment. "Right. That must explain my roaring personal life."
He hadn't meant to sound so derisive; the truth was, he was more than content hanging out with Harry, or George and Remus on occasion. Harry knew that Ron was into guys, though he'd not acted on it much at all. Harry was the same way, which had deepened their friendship even though Ron hadn't thought that was possible. In dark hours of early morning, or after he'd had his share of alcohol, Ron admitted to himself that part of his reason for being so copacetic with his relatively nonexistent love life was that he had Harry. Though of course he didn't actually have Harry. And the thought of Harry being involved with someone else made Ron feel as though slugs had lodged in his stomach. It was just complicated. Or infinitely simple. Simpler, for certain, not to tell Harry about the ways in which Ron wanted to wake up with him in the mornings, much less the activities they would have been involved for them to have gone to sleep together, sated and exhausted.
Harry swirled around his drink before swallowing most of it. "If you wanted things to be different, they could be." He put his drink on the bar before pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "This Langford guy probably thinks he's made an impression, if you're paying attention to what he's saying," he said, a scowl and half-smile battling for dominance in his expression. "Of course, you can take fashion advice from anybody you want."
"Harry, what's going on with you?" Ron found himself getting irritated. He sounded almost jealous, which didn't make any sense. Surely Ron would have picked up on any indication that Harry was interested in him beyond their friendship. Ron knew he wasn't the sharpest quill in the box when it came to relationships, which was precisely why he looked to him for guidance.
"Oh, nothing." He ordered another drink and rubbed at his temple before turning on his stool so he could look at Ron. "Didn't sleep well. Sorry to take it out on you." He laid his hand just above Ron's knee, his fingers drumming a short rhythm before he placed his hands back in his lap. "My job's been boring, as you know."
"No doubt!" Ron snickered. "I only get that many owls from you when you're about to go out of your skull."
"Well, being a paper pusher is a fair sight better than battling Voldemort. Safer, too."
Ron raised his nearly-empty pint. "Hear, hear," he toasted and they clinked glasses.
"So," Harry went on, his stealthy grin traveling all the way to his eyes. "What're you writing on these days?"
"You'll get a laugh out of this. I'm doing an article on the history of the bludger."
"The what?!" Harry spluttered.
Ron slapped him on the back a couple of times until Harry waved him off, his coughs subsiding.
"An article on the history of bludgers. It's the 1000th anniversary of Quidditch, y'know. They liked my interview of Oliver Wood and that other article on broom care through the ages so much that they gave me a full-length article. I'd not thought that charmed balls would be so exciting to write about, but I've actually enjoyed the research."
By the time Ron realised his accidental double entendre, Harry was choking with laughter again.
"Piss off," Ron said half-heartedly, signaling the bartender for some water.
"You really don't know you do that sometimes, do you?" Harry said, wiping a tear from his eye once he'd calmed down.
"No, but thanks for reminding me just how ridiculous I can be."
"No worries." Harry's smile blazed as he rummaged through his coat pocket for his own pack of fags. "One of my favourite parts of being your best mate."
"At least you're honest." Ron returned the smile before draining his ale.
"Yeah. And about that," Harry said, cupping his palm around the end of the cigarette as he lit it with a match. "Blue and green are really good colours for you. But these black denims you've got on, they're keepers."
Ron shook his head slowly, chuckling. "That's a rich compliment, seeing as how you have a pair just like them."
"Well, you do admit they're comfortable."
Ron didn't deign to reply, he just pushed his empty glass toward the bartender and tapped the top once he had his attention. "Not to be a downer, but you remember what tomorrow is, right?"
Harry nodded. "Of course. I'll take the afternoon off. D'you want me to meet you there?"
"Well, why don't— Sure." He took a sip of beer. "Thanks. I know mum appreciates it."
Melancholy skirted across Harry's features as he took a drag on his cigarette. "I know that Fred and George weren't exactly the best brothers in the world, and treated you like shite a lot of the time, but Fred didn't deserve to die like he did, when he did. I want to help remember him."
Ron gnawed on his lower lip. Thankfully the War hadn't claimed nearly as many people in the Order and, more generally, on the side of Light than had been predicted. Still, the annual remembrance for Fred was an especially solemn, though not humourless day for his family. Harry might not be a Weasley by blood, but by love and loyalty he was most certainly kin.
"We'll be at the graveyard at three."
He took a healthy swallow of his ale. The two of them sat in an easy quiet next to each other until the thumping beat of the music drifted into Ron's consciousness. Its pulse reminded him abruptly of just how alive he was, and how grateful he should be for that.
"Wanna dance?" Ron heard himself say.
Harry's distinctive eyes widened at the proposition.
His uncertain expression made Ron cringe. He'd not meant to make things change from comfortable into awkward, and he'd opened his mouth to try and make a joke of it when the look on Harry's face changed. Untroubled delight at Ron's request flooded his features. Inexplicably, Ron felt as though he'd been named Employee of the Year and asked to pose in Un-Robed!, all at once.
"That'd be great! I love this band— they're coming to Glasgow in a few weeks. We should go see them," Harry went on excitedly as he put out his cigarette.
Ron suspected that he had an absolutely idiotic grin on his face, but he didn't care. He couldn't dance at all; he was hopeless and had no rhythm, and that didn't seem to matter. Harry had put his arm partially around Ron's waist as he followed him onto the crowded dance floor, the warm pressure a reassuring tether as they drifted into the sea of gyrating bodies. He hopped around a bit as closely to Harry as he could without feeling really conspicuous until Harry's own exuberance eased up and he gazed relentlessly at Ron. Ron felt his hands edge inexorably behind Harry's waist until they touched. He intertwined the tips of his fingers against the swath of exposed skin above his waistband, his thumbs planted alongside the slightly slick knobs of Harry's spine. Harry's mouth opened slightly. When his tongue nervously darted out over barely-parted lips, Ron felt he'd been given an engraved invitation written on the creamiest of parchment.
Ron leaned down, tilting his head in an attempt not to bump noses as he pressed his lips against Harry's. He felt as though a sudden fire had roared to life in his groin and he moaned when Harry slid his tongue into his mouth. The world shrank to nothing but hot and wet and a pulsing ache in his growing erection as the passionate kiss went on and on. Shivers of icyhot roiled in his chest when he felt Harry's fingers grasp at the back of his shirt, rubbing up and down and pulling them closer as though trying to meld their bodies together. Rather unhelpfully, his mind suddenly launched into a frantic litany of being out in public, snogging his best friend as though there were no tomorrow, and wondering just how obvious his steely hard-on was to everyone on the planet. Or at least the club.
Harry drew back, breathing heavily, a dazed look in his dilated eyes. "That was " He took a deep breath as Ron did the same, hoping fervently that he'd not accidentally accepted an invitation to something meant to happen some other day, if ever, or with less spontaneity, or with far more elegance than Ron's enthusiastic mouth plundering.
"You wanted that, right?" Ron blurted out. "Tell me I've not just gone and made a total arse out of myself. 'Cause gods, I want more of that, more of you."
Harry licked his lips again, this time with an intently seductive look that made Ron want to Apparate them both straight to his bedroom. Or Harry's.
"That was something I've thought about for a long time," Harry said, pressing his own not inconspicuous erection against Ron's. "You're a brilliant kisser, and I want to do loads more of it. I'm guessing that you're okay with being a bit more than friends? I just didn't want to assume," he said, less certain of himself. "We've gone through a lot; we're practically brothers."
"I've got quite enough of those," Ron rumbled, easing his hands down to cup Harry's squarish backside, the shape at once incredibly familiar and yet unexplored territory for his questing fingers. "Seems like you and I have both been waiting to see if we wanted this. I know I do, Harry."
"I do, more than anything." Harry ground their hips together, nuzzling up against the side of Ron's jaw like a cat begging to have its head scratched. "I think we should get out of here. Come over to my place. Unless you'd rather be at yours "
A low whimper of lust made its way out of Ron's throat as Harry kissed it. "Yours is great. Might be able to find the way to your bed. My flat looks as though a hippogryff's gone rampaging through it."
"Well, mine's not exactly set up for company, either, but you've seen it in worse states."
Ron tilted his head back around and placed a tender kiss on Harry's lips. It was a clichˇ, and he knew it, but he really did feel as though his heart was stumbling against his ribs with happiness. "I have, and I don't care."
"Then let's go."
* * * * *
"Thanks for coming, Harry. I know he'd be glad." George gave Harry an awkward, though obviously heartfelt hug.
"Nice to see you." Remus let his hand rest on Ron's shoulder and Ron put his hand on top just for a moment.
Ron poured Harry and himself each another shot of Oban. They toasted and remembered Fred this way each year, and while it didn't get easier, it wasn't a morose affair.
"Will you tell mum we'll be there in a few?" Ron asked, easing his hand behind Harry's back. It had surprised him, being so easy and natural not to hide his new feelings for Harry, at least in front of these two. George still harboured a stunned look about him, but Remus had taken their new status in stride.
As George and Remus headed back to The Burrow, Ron tossed back half of his drink. He shuffled backward until he could sit on Fred's marker, the stone slab warmed from the sunlight. Even as a child he'd not felt uncomfortable in the small Weasley family graveyard, and today's small get-together only reinforced the sense of being in a place where he was safe and protected. Harry walked forward so that he stood between Ron's open legs, placing his glass on the grey marble. He wrapped his arms around Ron's waist, a serious expression on his face.
"I'm really glad that we didn't wait until it was too late to come clean with each other," he said, his hands smoothing small circles at the base of Ron's spine.
"Me too." Ron closed his eyes, breathing in the piney scent of Harry's hair, smiling smugly to himself about the fact that his own hair smelled like that today. Though rushed, their shower together in the morning had been a memorable one.
"Nice shirt, too," Harry said, laying his head on Ron's shoulder.
"Think I've worn enough black," Ron replied, earning a soft chuckle from Harry. "You should've seen the look on Langford's face when I got into the office."
"Must admit, and this isn't mature of me, but I've already thought about how disappointed he'll be at your next Triple-Q function when I'm there with you."
Ron huffed a small laugh. "Well, obviously I'm not mature either, as I'd thought the same thing." He finished his scotch and ran his thumb under Harry's chin. "Thanks for last night. Sorry about the marks. I'm not exactly an expert at this."
Harry shrugged, a prurient look flaring in his eyes. "Didn't mind. Not exactly an expert either. Guess we'll need to work on that."
"Guess we will," Ron replied. He closed his eyes against the dying rays of sun as Harry kissed him, so deep and thorough Ron felt it seep through to his toes. He knew it wouldn't always be like this, but for the moment, he surrendered to the utter contentment coursing through him. Harry drew back, his faint stubble glinting in the dusk as he ran the back of his hand under his chin.
"Not to break the mood, but I'm famished," he said.
"I am, too. Get the Oban, will you?"
Harry did, twisting the cap back on as Ron cast a Scourgify on their glasses. They walked across the quiet grass, lost in their own thoughts until Ron felt Harry slip his hand into his.
This is it, Ron thought, chewing on the inside of his cheek. Harry, me, whatever else happens. Not so bad, really. No idea what in Hades to do next, but—
"Stop thinking," Harry said quietly. "Or if you're going to be that quiet, talk to me. 'Kay?"
Ron nodded, and squeezed his hand. "You okay with this?"
"Better than okay. You?"
"Ron? Come and set the table!" Molly's voice echoed out over the expanse of untidy lawn.
Ron grimaced, glancing over at Harry.
"I know you're older than twelve. It's home, Ron. We're in this together. All of it."
"Glad of that."
Harry squeezed Ron's hand before letting go and opening the door.