That’s how Ron finally guessed.
He’d been peevish after the Quidditch match, far too much, considering they’d won for once. Ron, flush with the still-unfamiliar sensation of victory, hadn’t wanted to let Harry skulk off from the shower room celebration.
“Come on, Harry,” he’d said, dragging the slight Seeker away from the door, “you keep running off after every game like this, and the rest of the team’s going to start thinking you don’t like them!”
“Ron, let go,” Harry said, exasperated, sure, but hardly angry — Ron knew what Harry-angry looked like, right?
So he pushed it a bit more -- gave Harry’s wrist a tug, ducked under him as he staggered, and hoisted his friend up over his shoulder. Harry had already taken off his pads. Cup as well — that last became unmistakably apparent as Ron felt Harry’s erection press into his collarbone.
They both froze for an instant, shocked, perhaps a little appalled. Then it was Ron’s turn to yelp as Harry reached down his back, grabbed a handful of his arse, and used it to haul himself over Ron’s shoulder. Ron, still too stunned to move, could only grunt as Harry’s knee clipped his ear on the way over. Somehow the Seeker managed to come down on his feet, much to the amusement of the rest of the team, who applauded Harry’s gymnastics and Ron’s scarlet blush.
Sparing Ron only a single, scathing emerald glance, Harry was out the door before the tumult died. By the time Ron could get away again, there was no sign of the Seeker, or his broomstick anywhere.
Harry showed back up at dinner; relaxed again, joking with Hermione and not quite meeting Ron’s eye. He’d waved it away when Ron tried to apologize, not as if he really didn’t care, but more as if he really didn’t want to talk about it.
That’s when Ron noticed the nose-print.
That’s when he put it together. Snogging. He wasn’t sneaking off for a traditional Potter-sulk, but for a bit of some. Which made sense, Harry being who he was, and looking how he did — of course there were plenty of girls who sighed after him, whispered and giggled over him, checked out his arse in the Quidditch robes. Heck, even Hermione had mentioned how Harry hadn’t so much grown over the summer as gelled in a dishy sort of way. Ron had laughed at her, he remembered, and demanded never to be called dishy. Now he was faintly peeved to remember her waspish reply of “no fear, Mr. Weasley.”
So why should the idea of Harry slipping off for a snog bother him, Ron wondered, poking his stewed pumpkin about his plate in a way that would have made his mother scowl. But try as he might, Ron just couldn’t sort it out, and after the fourth time Hermione demanded to know what was wrong with him, he figured he’d better let it go. He put some effort into seeming a little more normal, but didn’t fail to notice the guilty sort of relief that Harry relaxed into as they started discussing the Cannon’s latest scores -- like he was halfway glad to be getting away with something, but only halfway.
Ron left the other two in the common room, Harry writing a letter to his Godfather — a habit he’d picked up after the man’s death, and which, while Ron didn’t exactly understand it, at least he knew it helped Harry look less grey sometimes, so he didn’t comment. Hermione was happily plowing through a mammoth volume of herbological medicine. Neville, yearning and ignored over her shoulder, flinched away when Ron gave him the stink-eye on the way out of the room.
“Bit late for a stroll, lovey,” said the fat lady as she let Ron out into the hallway.
“Prefect’s bathroom,” he explained, tapping his badge, “best place to get a bit of privacy, isn’t it?”
She smirked. “Just be careful, love — These old halls aren’t ready for a new crop of Weasleys just yet.”
Ron blushed so hard he choked on it. But he realized as he turned how stupid it would look to sputter angrily at the painting, so he drew himself up straight and raised his chin.
“Privacy,” he said, sounding, to his chagrin, rather like Percy, “as in alone, thank you very much.”
She snickered, but he stomped away, bad mood now firmly entrenched.
He ran the bath as full and hot as he could stand it, not indulging in his normal game of using the different taps to make warring foam-flotillas in various colours and scents. The mermaid picture looked away politely as he threw his robe and clothes on the floor, but that only made Ron steam a little more. Why did it have to be extremes, anyway? Either he’s a letch, or an innocent, and no ground in between? Either he was Hermione’s pet, or he was Harry’s, depending on who wanted a kick at him. A follower, either way.
“Welcome to sidekick central,” he growled, wetting a flannel and scrubbing at his already-clean face, “check your identity at the door, and pick up your pratfall handbook on your way out.”
But that wasn’t fair. Not really. He’d done the Quidditch thing himself — stupid mistakes, obnoxious, chanting Slytherins and all. No one could say Harry’d carried him there, could they? He was on his own out there by the rings, and now that he could ignore Malfoy and his little chorus, he wasn’t doing half badly. He’d earned his place on the team — him and Ginny both, and the team made sure they both knew it.
Which brought his thoughts briefly back to the shower room party.
Which brought his thoughts back to Harry, and the reason he’d left it.
“Bollocks,” Ron sighed as the warm feeling evaporated from his stomach. “So he was off snogging with Chang. Big deal. Not like he should... no, wait.” Cho had been at dinner before he or Hermione got there. And anyway, she’d been hanging about with that Ravenclaw 7th year girl since the term started. Hadn’t so much as looked at Harry once, had she?
“Lovegood?” He mused, “She’s been mooning after him all year, but no, she was at dinner too.” She’d come by to show he and Hermione the new edition of her father’s magazine — complete with ex-professor Trelawney’s daily astrology column. Ron had barely listened, thinking about Harry at the time, but it proved it couldn’t have been her.
“So who else could have...” Ron shook his head, confused. It could really be just about any girl in school, couldn’t it? Because who wouldn’t be pleased to put their nose-print on Harry’s glasses? Even fat, nasty Pansy Parkinson would have been flattered at an offer from the Boy Who Lived, no matter her Slytherin loyalties. Ron ducked under the water, emptying his lungs in a boiling stream of bubbles and exasperation. He let his airless body sink for a moment, listened to his heartbeat while he waited for his lungs to protest. Then suddenly a thought occurred to him — a thought that just about made him take a lungful of water in shock.
He surged up out of the bath, coughing and sputtering. “Not -- Ginny?!” Ron balled up the flannel in his fist, “I’ll kill him if he’s messing about with-” Then he caught himself. “Stupid, Ron. Ginny was at the party. Harry couldn’t have been with her.”
“A fact which breaks her little schoolgirl heart, I’m sure,” purred a voice in his ear.
Ron yelped, whirled, and surged half out of the bath, knowing before he even turned who had spoken. Malfoy knelt on the tiles at the edge of the bath, smirking like a nasty little cat while he rolled a wand — Ron’s wand — back and forth in his fingers. That was half bad, but Malfoy being naked and wholly unconcerned with that fact completely disrupted the connection between Ron’s raging, ranting brain, and his stammering, still-choking mouth. After a moment of spluttering, Ron sensibly shut up, thrust out his hand, and just glared.
“Not too bright to be leaving this lying about, Weasley,” Malfoy smirked, tapping his lips, “Anyone could have walked in here while you were yammering to yourself.”
“Well, silly me to have thought the closed door and ‘occupied’ light would be warning enough,” Ron heard himself say through clenched teeth, “Clearly I forgot to have a House Elf stand outside the door and sing the ‘Piss Off Malfoy, You Pointy-Faced Git’ song. I’ll remember that next time. Now why don’t you?”
Malfoy grinned, tossing Ron’s wand back into the pile he’d made of his clothes. “Thought you’d never ask,” he said. And then he climbed into the tub.
“Get lost!” Ron corrected, backing to the other side, “Why don’t you get lost!”
Malfoy sank easily into the steaming water, smug and unbearable. “Because you don’t want me to.” Ron was still working on a reply scathing enough to suit when Malfoy got tired of waiting and went on. “Face it, Weaseleeeee, you were so desperate for conversation you had to come in here and talk to yourself — or maybe the mermaid painting, though she doesn’t seem to be too interested.” True enough — the mermaid was curled up and dozing on her rock. “What’s the matter, no one in the Gryffindor common room willing to pretend they give a damn what you say?”
And yes, that did hurt. Ron clenched his fist around the flannel and imagined cramming it down that smug shite’s throat. “Well if you’re so popular then what’re you doing here yourself?”
A pale eyebrow rose. “Bathing.”
Growing up with Fred and George had given Ron Weasley a pretty good idea of when an argument was just not worth having. All his instincts were telling him that getting out of there would be for the best if he could manage it before his temper got up into his throat and made a fool of him. “Right. Then I’ll leave you to that.” Ron turned his back on the smirking Slytherin and hiked his knee onto the side of the bath.
Draco’s chuckle almost stopped him cold, but he was so precariously balanced he knew he’d slip back into the tub and crack his skull if he didn’t keep moving. He did, however, turn angrily once he’d managed to get a towel over himself. “What?” he demanded.
“Oh, nothing, Weasel. Just find your idea of Gryffindor courage to be rather lacking, that’s all.”
“Doesn’t take courage to share a bath with you, Malfoy, it just takes a strong stomach and an anti-vermin spell!” There. That put a dent in that superior smirk, didn’t it?
But then Malfoy narrowed his eyes and leaned back, sprawling against the tiled wall of the tub again. “Guess it’s no surprise Potter’s stomach is stronger than yours then, is it?”
Ron stared at him, cold and horrified. Don’t ask. Don’t ask. He’s waiting for you to ask, so don’t. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Well, why don’t you ask me why I’m so certain Potter wasn’t shagging your loathsome little sister after this afternoon’s Quidditch match?” Malfoy countered, brushing his fingertips over a row of mouth-sized, wine colored bruises that decorated his collarbone.
Ron saw red for a moment, surged forward and stubbed his toe on a soap tap. The pain cleared his head a bit. “You’re a lying little tosser, Malfoy! There’s no way Harry would touch you!”
Too late, Ron saw the triumphant flash in those silver eyes. He’d stepped right into it. “Oh, so I got there first, did I?” Malfoy actually shouted with laughter. “That’s rich! Shall I tell you all about it, Jealous Nelly? Shall I tell you about how that back tooth of his is crooked, and it sometimes catches my foreskin when he sucks me off? D’you want to know how many fingers he likes before he takes the tackle?”
“You know, he makes this noise when he’s just about to lose it — bit like a squirrel, really, but kind of cute in a rodentish way.”
“I mean it. Shut your mouth.”
“And let me tell you, once you get up in the saddle, your little hero knows what to do alright. Good enough you could fuck him through a hedge backwards-”
Two steps carried Ron to Malfoy’s side, and a single lunge had the grinning bastard’s throat in his hand. Which didn’t do what it was supposed to — oh, it shut him up, but it didn’t banish that glint from those grey eyes. If anything, they glittered more as Malfoy craned his chin higher in a kind of a dare.
“Go on then, Weasel. Everyone knows you can’t resist sniffing after whatever Potter’s had.”
Ron just stared, feeling the pulse under his fingers in that pale, slim throat. It made his skin crawl. He wondered momentarily where Malfoy’s goons were -- just outside the bathroom door, or far enough away not to overhear it if he drowned Malfoy in the bathwater?
But then Ron noticed the mermaid watching them both with a frank, almost familiar sea-green stare. He let go of Malfoy’s throat and stood with a growl. “Stuff it, Malfoy,” he said, scooping up his clothes and wand.
“See now, I knew you’d be a bottom, Weasel!” the blonde crowed, craning his head to watch Ron dress, “And thanks for the offer, but I’ve already topped once tonight, so I’m right spent. I’ll have to stuff you some other time, I’m afraid.”
“You’re disgusting!” Ron choked, slinging his robe on so fast the worn fabric snapped like a flag in a high wind.
“Well, if I’m disgusting but I’m good enough for your hero to want,” Malfoy asked, “what does that make you that you’re not?”
Ron stared at him for a long, silent moment, waiting for that sly grin to waver, waiting for the spirit of Fred-and/or-George to infuse him with just the right put-down to render the Slytherin prefect mute and furious. From the corner of his eye, Ron saw the Mermaid in the painting give a delicate yawn and settle back across her rock.
Malfoy’s laughter followed him out the door, and halfway down the hall before the echoes faded.
He didn’t speak to anyone. No one who got a look at his face spoke to him, either. Even the fat lady seemed to think better of bothering him for the password and swung meekly aside as he approached.
Through the common room as the chatter stilled in his wake. Not looking at anyone, anyone at all, least of all Harry, who was getting up out of his chair with that expectant, excited heroic look on his face.
Ron veered around the knot of chairs by the fireplace, not seeing Neville scramble to vacate the seat he normally took, not hearing Hermione’s anxious query as he passed, and most of all, not letting Harry catch his eye or his hand or his robe. He hit the stairs at full stride, took the steps two at a time and almost wished he had farther to climb. He wanted to hit something so badly he was actually a little afraid to just go into the room he shared with the others. If any of them were to walk in and ask him what was wrong... well, Professor McGonagal would probably dock more points for an in-house brawl than Snape ever imagined in his wildest dreams.
Then he remembered his brothers’ room — Hardly bigger than a closet, really, but McGonagal had thought it better to put Fred and George on their own than to give them roommates to traumatize. It hadn’t been reassigned yet, to his knowledge. Now if only the password was the same....
He heard feet on the stairs below, and that decided him. Up he went, slapping his hand on the fifth stone from the right of the door arch. “Toffee-nosed brat,” he muttered under his breath. The latch clicked loose, and the door nudged open an inch, as though to urge him inside, but before he could fling it wide, Harry had his elbow in a grip neither he, nor a snitch could escape.
“Ron, what happened?” Harry demanded, “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong?” Here it came. No stopping it, not a chance of walking away before he said- “Draco-fucking-Malfoy, Harry! Draco-fucking-Malfoy is fucking WRONG!”
Harry went pale, let Ron yank his arm away. “What? What did he say to you?” So there was no more pretending it might not have been true. Ron was surprised to find himself actually a little queasy as the fact settled around his neck like a mill wheel.
“He said too bloody much.” Ron shoved the door open and stalked into the tiny room. Harry didn’t try to follow, just stood there on the threshold looking white and lost. When Ron made to slam the door in his face, the look in those green eyes sharpened into anger.
“Don’t you dare, Ron Weasley!” Harry breathed, “Don’t you dare judge me-”
“You asked. I told you.” Other feet were coming up the stairs, heads peering nervously, curiously around the corners. Harry turned to banish them with a glare. “I don’t want to talk about it now,” Ron muttered, backing into the room, “just piss off so I can get some sleep, will you?”
A muscle on the side of Harry’s jaw leapt, and his eyes narrowed. “Fine.”
“Fine.” And Ron closed the door.
Three seconds later, the wood shook so hard it rattled mortar loose from the frame above it. Ron, who was still glowering at the door, jumped and reached for the handle again. He was just about to throw it and the argument back open when he heard Harry snarl “Piss off!” at someone and stomp off down the stairs.
“Fine,” he repeated, then went and flopped onto one of the stripped, dusty mattresses to fume for awhile.
Parting words to his best friend aside, there was no way Ron could sleep. The room hadn’t any pillows or blankets, and for all it lacked a window, it had plenty of draughts. And the argument with Harry, and Draco’s poisonous words kept playing over in his head when he tried to relax, making his teeth grind and his jaw ache. Before long, Ron wondered if banging it against the wall wouldn’t make it throb somewhat less.
It also didn’t help that the beds still held the ghost of his brothers’ scents; a subtle sleepy musk with just a hint of clove and corn and wool — the smell he used to catch when one of them hugged him, or as happened more often, noogied him. The smell he hadn’t breathed since that day last year when twins had escaped Professor Umbridge’s tyranny.
The brief naps Ron managed in the moonless dark stripped him of his careful defenses, left him bare before that horrible feeling of isolation and loss that had transfixed him when he watched his brothers fly away and leave him behind. Like they always had when he was little, only for real this time. Not coming back for him, laughing at his fears and teasing him for trying to tag along. Not coming back ever.
After the fourth time he woke up miserable, weepy and choking on snot, Ron just gave up. Tomorrow was a Saturday anyhow, so if he had to, he could always creep back to the dorm once the others had left it, and get some sleep then... Creep. Sneak about like the littlest ratboy of all, like he had something to hide, or to hide from.
Ron clenched his jaw. “Right. House Elves’ll give me a blanket. Don’t need Harry’s bloody cloak just to make it down to the kitchens, Fred and George did it often enough without-”
But throwing open the door, Ron found himself pulling up short. Harry was there, pajama-clad, arms full of bedding, and just raising his hand to knock.
“Er,” Ron heard himself say.
“Er,” Harry agreed. After a moment, he thrust the blankets and pillows at Ron with a cough. “Kind of cold tonight. I noticed the House Elves stripped the room.”
“Right,” Ron coughed, staring stupidly at the pile and wondering why he couldn’t think of anything to say when there was so much that clearly needed saying.
“You going to take this then?” Harry’s voice went a little sharper, a little colder.
Ron flinched, but then took the bundle. “Yeah. Thanks... hey, this isn’t mine. Isn’t this the rug mum made for you last Christmas?”
Harry glowered. “Yes, it’s from my trunk. I didn’t want to strip your bed, you idiot.” Then he sighed and pushed his glasses up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Good God, Ron, it’s not contagious, you know. You can’t catch it from sleeping on my bloody afghan!”
Just the annoyed tone of Harry’s voice sent a spike of anger through Ron’s guts. “What are you on about?” He snapped.
“Look,” Harry began, as though explaining it to a child, “I’m still me, okay Ron? Just because you know I like guys now doesn’t mean you have to go and freak out about it-”
“WHAT?” Ron gaped, stunned for a second, replaying the last lines of their earlier argument from a totally different perspective. “You thought I — Oh, damn it Harry, get in here, will you?” He grabbed the slighter boy and hauled him into the room, slamming the door before he could protest or struggle.
The bedding spilled about their feet in a tangled pile as Ron took careful hold of Harry’s shoulders. “I am NOT upset that you fancy blokes, okay Harry? Bloody hell, I grew up with Fred and George — that’s kind of tame compared to some of the things they got up to!”
Harry blinked slowly. “Then what the hell is all this about?”
“Malfoy.” Ron said, releasing him and going to flop on one of the beds, “I’m upset that you’re shagging Malfoy. For Merlin’s sake, Harry, he HATES you!”
“Ron,” Harry sighed, sitting on the other bed, so close in the cramped room their knees almost brushed, “he doesn’t. Not really. Whatever he said to you, he was just winding you up.”
“No. No, you’re wrong.” Ron shook his head, “I know all about that sort of thing — Fred and George, remember? What Malfoy said about you...” he shuddered, “Harry, no one talks that way about someone unless they hate them — really, deep down hate them.” Ron was ashamed to recall how he’d even listened to the filthy words, let alone believed them. Any proper friend would have smashed Malfoy’s grinning mouth to a paste just for saying such things, but Ron had bought it all without even a token denial. The fact that it had been true just made everything worse.
“How can you...BE with someone who hates you that much?” He breathed, hoping to make sense of it by asking aloud, “Don’t you think you deserve better, Harry?”
And there it was; that bitter flash that never used to be in Harry’s eyes before last summer — before Sirius Black’s death. It was hard, sharp, and unpredictable, that glint, and it could cut a moment of joy dead faster than one of Snape’s insults. Then Harry looked carefully away and the fierce silence continued.
“You’re punishing yourself, aren’t you?” The words shoved out of Ron’s mouth before he even realized what he was saying, “That’s why-”
“Oh for God’s sake, Ron, it’s just sex!”
“For a creep like Malfoy,” Ron insisted, “it’s never just sex. Not with anyone, and least of all with you. And if it is just sex, then there must be someone else who-”
“Who’d love bragging rights on The Boy Who Bloody Well Lived?” the title sounded filthy coming out of Harry’s mouth, “Sure, I’ll bet there are plenty of those, but no thanks, Ron! I had enough of reading my private life in the Daily Prophet in the last two years!”
“And let’s see; who was it feeding those lies to Skeeter during the Tri-Wizarding tournament?” Ron pretended to think for exactly one second, “Oh right — Malfoy!”
“This is different, Ron. He won’t tell anyone about this.”
“He bloody well told me, didn’t he?” Ron demanded, “What’s to stop him bragging about your little squirrel noises and crooked back tooth to the whole world?”
Harry’s lips pressed into a hard line, and Ron was instantly, uselessly sorry. But Harry cut him off before he could choke out an apology. “Because his father would murder him for touching a halfbreed like me. Because his father would murder him for endangering his chances of making a suitable marriage to some future trophy wife. Because his father would murder him for getting scandal on the Malfoy family name. And because no matter what he said about me, I could hurt him with it worse!” Harry’s tone was grim, almost vicious. “If I said Draco was my bitch, nobody in the world would care what he claimed -- not even his father. He knows it.”
“I told you; to wind you up.” Harry looked away, and a note of doubt crept into his voice. “And probably ‘cause he knew you’d tell me.”
Silence for a long moment before Ron breathed “Oh Harry.”
“What the hell should I do then? You know what it’s like, Ron! A nice ass walks by, and your brain goes south, and some days it doesn’t matter whether it’s a girl, a boy, or a House Elf!” Harry stood, and would have paced, had the tiny room allowed, “Draco Malfoy may be evil, but he’s... well, he’s convenient.”
“Other people could be convenient, Harry,” Ron said carefully, “And if you looked in the right place, discreet as well. Seamus, for instance; he swings both ways.”
“No, he swings exactly one way since last year, and his dance card’s full.” Harry said, hands on his hips and dripping attitude.
“Which would be the way Seamus is swinging. Which you would know, if you didn’t sleep as if you’d been dropped from orbit, Ron! I swear, those two make more noise than Pigwidgeon, and you just snore right on through it!”
“Well what about Neville? What’s funny then?” Ron demanded when Harry choked with laughter.
“Neville’s straight, Ron!” Harry managed eventually, “And he pulls more birds than any boy I know!”
“What, Neville? Our Neville? The one who keeps blowing up his cauldron in Potions class? Little podgy bloke who can’t finish a sentence when Hermione’s in the room?” Ron scowled, “You’re having me on!”
Harry held up a hand, dropped back onto the bed with a grin. “Wizard’s oath, Ron — Our little Neville’s the ladies’ man of Gryffindor. Must be picking up tips from Trevor or something.”
“That’s it, I’m asking Mum and Dad to get me a toad for Christmas.” Ron shook his head, then returned to the task at hand. “Creevy. The kid worships you, he’d never-”
Harry hit him with a pillow. “Him and his camera? That’s just creepy, Ron, and he’s too young anyhow.”
“Alright then, someone older,” Ron grinned, “What about Snape? He’s always staring after you -- bet he fancies your tight little Quidditch arse-”
“EWW!” The pillow hit him a moment before Harry did. Laughing, Ron let his friend bear him over backwards into the dusty mattress.
“That is just gross, Ron!” Harry, trying not to laugh himself, utterly failed to carry off righteous indignation, so he resorted to poking Ron in his extremely ticklish ribs. “And anyway, I thought this was about me NOT going with someone who hated me!”
“Fine!” Ron yelped, trying and failing to ward off the Seeker’s attacks, “Fine then; me! Why aren’t you sleeping with me?”
And suddenly Harry froze, eyes wide and dark, breath stilled in his half-open mouth. Ron actually watched the blood drain from his friend’s face.
“Hey,” he muttered, trying to smile, “joke, Harry. I’m joking.”
Harry rolled away and sat up in one fluid movement. “Well don’t, ‘cause it’s not funny.”
“Harry, I didn’t mean anything-”
“I know.” Two words cutting through his apology like an axe.
Ron flushed, then grew angry again. “Then what’s wrong with you?”
“I thought about it, okay?” Harry rounded on him, shouting, “I thought about it!”
“Oh Harry,” Ron breathed.
“Oh God, don’t you dare say it!” Harry’s eyes narrowed, and two fiercely red spots
appeared just under his glasses. “Pity me, and I will hex you straight through that wall!”
Ron ignored the threat, sitting up. “Why didn’t you say something?”
That stopped Harry, made him think for a moment. Ron could hear his own heart thudding in his chest — half expected Harry could hear it too. At length, Harry dropped his gaze and half-shrugged. “I just didn’t think I should. I didn’t figure you were...” he waved his hand vaguely between the two of them, “I mean you aren’t...”
Popular. Rich. Blonde. Smart. Elegant. Dishy. Funny how all those words came to Ron’s mind in Malfoy’s sneering drawl. “I’m not what then?” His own voice came out in a growl.
Harry sighed, his thin shoulders working with the effort of it. When he turned to meet Ron’s eyes, his own were deeply sad. “Gay, Ron,” Harry said, “You’re not gay.”
Oh. Well of course he wasn’t. Ron blinked, his temper evaporating like the steam of his breath in the chill air. He his heart thudded as though everything else in the whole world had gone still and that was the only sound left. Then Ron found himself on his feet, looking down slightly into his best friend’s eyes.
“Does that have to matter?” He offered a tentative grin to cover the quake he felt in his belly, “I mean, like you said, some days — guy, girl, or House Elf, right?” Harry sighed and looked away, brows knit as if in pain. Ron caught his arm before he could move. “Hey. I’m not joking now, Harry,” he said softly.
“You’re not gay,” Harry ground out from between his teeth.
“Am I convenient?”
Harry looked up, thinking hard. “I suppose,” he admitted grudgingly.
“And I’m discreet, right?” he pressed, gripping the wrist a little tighter, not letting him pull away, “You know I’d never sell you out.”
Harry gave up a dry little laugh. “No, Gryffindor loyalty aside, if you were going to, you’ve got enough on me already. It’s just...Ron, I don’t want it out of pity, okay? You shouldn’t be doing this to ‘save me’ from Malfoy or anything stupid like that.”
Which might have been the end of it if not for that glimmer of aching, half-buried hope Ron could see in Harry’s eyes, and the odd burning sensation pooling in his belly. Ron found he couldn’t make himself let go. Not yet. “It isn’t pity, Harry,” he said, “It isn’t. And as for Malfoy, I reckon he screwed himself well enough just by telling me what he did,” the brief, angry flush across Harry’s cheeks confirmed that suspicion. Ron grinned a little easier, and leaned in just a little closer.
“Look,” Harry coughed a final, half-hearted try, “You don’t really want me, Ron...” but to Ron’s surprise, he really did. He moved Harry’s hand to the front of his robes to prove it.
Harry froze, then palmed him through the rough fabric, looking down in wonder as he gently, efficiently transfigured Ron’s knees to mush. “God, Ron,” he heard Harry say as if from a distance, “Malfoy’s a toothpick next to you.”
He nodded, gripping Harry’s shoulders just to stay standing. “Weasley- unf- Weasley family... s-secret. We’ve all of us got it — all but Ginny, I mean. That’s why there’s... oh wow, Harry... there’s so many of us.”
Harry chuckled, nudging Ron backward. One step was all it took for his knees to go, and spill him across the bed. Harry had the blanket off the floor and it, and himself over Ron almost at once. “Last chance to come to your senses, Weasley.” Harry said, slithering across Ron’s hips till their erections cradled into a tight wedge between them.
“You always talk this much?” Ron asked, grabbing those hips to keep them where they were, or perhaps to pull them closer yet.
“Pretty much,” Harry agreed cheerfully, “it’s either that, or squirrel noises-mph. Mmmmm.”
And that, that Ron knew exactly how to do. And he did it with everything he had, not even minding the faint scratch of Harry’s chin against his own. Their tongues found a rhythm, their hips picked it up and then increased the pace. After about thirty seconds, Ron forgot he’d ever done anything else.
When Harry pulled away, Ron couldn’t manage more than an incoherent grunt and a clutching grab after him. “Skin,” Harry panted, ripping at the buttons of his pajamas.
Ron agreed whole-heartedly, glad, as he hauled his robes over his head, that he hadn’t stopped to get fully dressed after his bath. Then Harry was back against him, all soft heat and hard velvet muscle against him and Merlin, didn’t it feel better than before. Ron rocked into the friction between them, sliding his hands over Harry’s back, kneading his arse, trading groans back and forth like a lemon drop between their tongues. This time it was Ron who broke the kiss.
Some moments later, as his breath eased back, and his heart admitted that yes, he probably had survived the orgasm after all, Ron found Harry peering at him with that scary Potter intensity he knew so well.
“What?” he asked, alarmed.
“Just wondering if it’s freak-out time, or if you’re still okay with this.”
Ron had to laugh. “Harry, I just came my brains out!” He pulled his friend back into the crook of his shoulder and held him there. “It’s not fair to ask me that right now — I could only manage to answer one question, if my life depended on it!”
“Fine,” Harry snorted, settling his head under Ron’s collarbone so the hair drifted feather-soft against his neck, “What question can you answer then?”
“That Malfoy’s not only a git, he’s deaf as well.” Harry tensed, but Ron squeezed him still, pressing his grin into Harry’s soft, soap-smelling hair, “Those were totally duck noises, not squirrel noises!”
Ron gave it a week before he went looking for Malfoy again.
A week to settle out the inevitable weirdness, and to find a level of comfort that Ron would have once thought impossible. A week to work out their new language of skin and tongue and hands and glances. Ron knew Harry was going slowly with him, and for once, that was okay, because at least Harry was going with him. That made all the difference in the world for some reason he couldn’t have explained had his life depended on it.
But then one night, Harry hissed in pain when Ron took hold of his hand. Bruised knuckles, and a sore belly with a purple mark just over the ribs that Harry wouldn’t let him touch. And a grim, but triumphant set to Harry’s mouth when he refused to say who had tried to sucker-punch him.
Ron knew what to look for in Potions class the next day. Sure enough, Malfoy turned up late, bitterly glowering, and with the burned-looking redness around his eyes that always happened after someone tried to use a healing spell on a black eye. Or a pair of them in Malfoy’s case.
Ron grinned all through class, delighted at the idea of Harry’s having made Malfoy pay for what he’d said. Not even Snape’s suspicious glower could take the edge off his cheer.
“Hey, Malfoy,” Ron called in the hallway as they filed out. The blonde walked a little faster, making his goons hurry to keep up.
“Ron,” Harry growled a warning at his elbow, “leave it.”
“No, come on,” he laughed, breaking into a trot, “don’t you trust me?”
“Matter of fact, I don’t!” But Harry still kept up as they ran to catch the Slytherins at the stairs.
“Piss off, Potter, Weasley!” Goyle snarled, turning with a clenched fist as they drew near.
Ron ignored him. “Don’t be scared, Malfoy,” he called, loud enough to raise echoes and still chatter in the hall behind them, “I only wanted to answer your question.”
“What are you wittering on about, Weasel?” Malfoy hissed, turning. Ron could see terror glinting in those scorched eyes.
“You asked me a question last Friday night — about what that made me.” Ron explained, leaning against the stair rail as the other students began slipping past, pretending they weren’t trying to overhear. Harry was a silent, fierce gravity at his side, so heavy with potential rage, Ron could almost hear the stone steps creaking under him. “I know it seems crazy, but it actually seemed like a question worth thinking about.”
“Oh for Morgan’s sake,” Malfoy rolled his eyes and slung his bookbag higher onto his shoulder, “Fine, get your inane revelation over with before you sprain something, you halfwit!”
Harry stirred forward a step, prompting Crabbe and Goyle to close ranks around their blonde leader. Ron shook his head just a little, cut a glance at his friend that said ‘trust me’.
“It’s a simple answer, really, but you being who you are, I don’t guess you have much experience with things like this.” Ron grinned, nodding at the bodyguards, “Or not with the real thing, anyhow. What it makes me is respected.” He held those fierce grey eyes, not having to fake his grin at all as they narrowed with hatred. “Respected, Malfoy. Better than anything else I could be, I reckon. But I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it, won’t you?”
The grey eyes slid to Harry, glittering with a barely concealed hurt, and a sharp pride. From the corner of his eye, Ron saw Harry give a single grave nod. “Respected,” his best friend affirmed, “Remember that when you’re watching your fat mouth in the future.”
Malfoy’s jaw worked for a moment, but then he turned away, stomping off up the stairs in silence.
“What’s wrong with him?” Hermione asked, coming up behind them.
Ron barked a laugh. “He must have looked in a mirror when he got up this morning — being stuck with a pointy face like that’d spoil anyone’s day, wouldn’t it?”
To Ron’s surprise, Harry laughed too, and a line of worry eased out from between his eyebrows. Hermione gave them her best motherly scowl. “I swear I never know what trouble you two are going to get into next!”
“Probably for the best, that.” Harry grinned.
“Plausible deniability.” Hermione nodded primly, juggling her books to get at her pocket, “Invaluable where you two are concerned. Here, Harry,” she said, offering a linen square, “You’ve a smudge on your glasses.”
His nose-print this time, Ron thought with an inner glow as he watched Harry polish the mark away. And the next one would be as well.