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11 June 2004 @ 12:19 am
 
Title: Frost
Author: LardenceLover
Rating: R
Fandom: HP; Harry/Ron
A/N: Spoilers for all the books. Betaed by Amy. Post-war fic.


Frost.


There was frost curling at the edge of every window in Ron's flat. It tried to take over the glass, criss-crossing everything it reached and blocking the view outside. Whenever he pressed his thumb to the glass, though, the melted frost seeped around his fingertip and dripped down onto the wooden windowpane.

Sometimes the silences curled just like frost; complicated, freezing patterns of quiet that Ron needed more than a mere finger to melt.

He could sit at a window for hours, pressing a palm and a finger, maybe even a freckled nose or cheek, trying to clear the frost. It came back every night, though. Without fail.

---


Ron was brushing his teeth and swearing at the cowlick in his hair. The mirror swore back of course, sleepily and half-hearted because it was only five-thirty in the morning, and he decided to brush his teeth in the hallway after a couple minutes of it. It was too early for mindless banter with a reflection, and besides, mirrors never lost an argument. He dribbled toothpaste on his sweater and knew he was going to be late for work.

He was crawling under his nightstand in search of his wand when Harry apparated into his living room with a sharp, buzzing crack; all the lights in the flat wavered, dimmed and then came back on, a bit brighter than before he got there. Normally, it would have been considered rude to apparate into a house that wasn't yours, but it was Harry, and he might as well live with Ron for all the exceptions to the rules he'd accumulated.

"I'm running late," Ron said, muffled from under his bed as Harry walked into the bedroom, a stray foot nearly knocking over the lamp nearby. Harry caught it and righted it, off center like everything he touched, on the nightstand.

"Obviously."

"Don't start. I had a rotten night."

"I remember. I was there," Harry reminded him, pulling back the duvet on Ron's bed and clearing his throat. "Wand's up here, Ron."

Ron, not bothering to ask how Harry knew what he was looking for, shuffled out from under the bed and scowled at his wand. "How'd it get there?"

"Your night habits are none of my business, mate," Harry teased, and he ducked before a pillow comes sailing at his shoulder.

Muttering a spell to remove the toothpaste from his shirt, Ron sat on the edge of his messed bed to tug on his trainers, haphazardly tying the laces and managing to double-knot over his right index finger by accident. "What's the job today, then? Or haven't you been in yet?" Harry was almost always early for work, usually because he never bothered to sleep on the weekdays.

"I was in. Nothing exciting today, I'm afraid. Percy's be--"

"Oh, fuck. Not that git."

"Your mum would have a fit if she heard--"

"--Bad enough I have to eat dinner with him every other Sunday."

"Brotherly love, Ron."

"I love him. I love to magick his arse to his seat. I love to slip Fred and George's toffees into his food. I love to jab my wand into his back when Mum isn't looking."

Harry laughed. Ron knew it was genuine, but it sounded hollow and used just the same, like he'd been recycling that laugh for the last five years. Come to think of it, he probably had been.

"His office 'sbeen flooded with hexes ever since he pushed that new regulation on imported cauldrons into law."

"He never did give up on the bloody cauldrons, did he?"

The duvet started to slide off the side of the bed and Harry tried to pull it back. It fell off anyway. "He wouldn't be Percy if he did."

"One can hope, though."

"We're really late, Ron."

Ron stretched as he stood, and gave Harry a glance, groggily taking in a blur of black and denim and green, and nodded, stuffing his wand in his back pocket. "Work, then."

He waited long enough to see the lights dim, to feel the static-filled crack of Harry apparating, and then blinked out himself.

---


"Few things." Hermione said with a sort of crisp, perky awareness that should be illegal that early on a Monday. "Today you've another raid at that shop on Knockturn Alley... Evernhart's. And the hexes at Percy's office." She leafed through their schedule for the week, ignoring the frizzy clump of stray hair that invaded her sight. "And there's another report of--"

"Hermione, for the love of Merlin, we can read, you know." Ron hadn't had his coffee yet - in fact he and Harry had barely arrived more than ten minutes ago - and he wasn't feeling entirely tolerant to Hermione's usually endearing bossiness.

"--Of a Lucius Malfoy sighting, but I think it's rubbish because this is the fourth time in the last week that Edwina Ernwhistle has reported seeing him in her back garden," Hermione finished, the raise in her tone the only sign that she'd heard Ron at all.

"She's full of it," Harry scoffed, eyes cast downward at his own papers and a thumb pushing his glasses back up his nose.

"'Course she is, but we have to investigate her claim just the same." Hermione was in fine working form today, and Ron rather thought he hated her for it.

"I'm getting coffee," Harry said suddenly, and Ron stood up so abruptly that his chair fell back. Harry caught it and Hermione's eyes flickered up to Ron's face.

"Coffee," Ron said, very seriously.

Harry blinked, letting the chair go before Ron could grab it, and it clattered to the floor. Hermione muttered something resembling "hopeless," and went back to her mountains of paperwork.

---


There were explosions at this time of night. Strained chords in his neck, fingers flickering urgently over hot skin, eyes open and then closed and then open again, but only to see blotches of red and white. Most importantly, there was that faltering, whimpering noise stuck somewhere in the sticky back of his throat. He couldn't swallow, he couldn't see, he could barely fucking breathe, and the silence was deafening, almost throbbing, underneath the dull rasp of worn, repeatedly washed sheets and the sharper noise of hitched exhales of air. There wasn't a reason to hold the sounds back because he'd been living alone for years now, but it was a difficult habit to break.

Mindless words, whirring images, feverish, immediate waves of recognition and need, and the pulse on his wrist, against his belly, was thundering almost. Like the skin would burst.

It rushed and pulled over - the most violent tide in months, maybe years, not that he kept tabs - and it washed him up, sated and panting and unsure what it was exactly that sent him over the edge so fully. How he was left, scowling at a stained duvet and wracking his mind to come up with what was different this time.

A deeper green, under cover of black. Honest, subdued, unafraid. And the only color he could think of that even came close to matching that was the color of Harry's eyes.

All sorts of explosions this time of night.

---


Ron managed to avoid being alone with Hermione until Thursday of that week. He wasn't the brightest bloke around, but he was a genius when it came to Harry, and he knew another silence had frosted over the window of life. He was afraid that Hermione would try to pin it on him. It wouldn't be the first time, but all the other times he'd truly deserved it. This time he wasn't so sure.

He kept that night to himself, but guilt doesn't have much common sense.

Hermione was nothing if not relentless and determined, though, and while Harry was getting them Muggle take-out for lunch, she started in on him.

"Harry's gone into one of his moods again, Ron."

A non-committal grunt.

"Harry needs us, Ron. He's been like this for a month now, at least."

Insufferable little-- "I know, 'Mione. But honestly, he's a grown man. 'S only so much we can do for him."

She actually stopped to consider this - sometimes Ron really did love her, the way she could be when she tried to consider emotions rather than logic for once - and then she sighed, the aggressive, Ron-go-fix-it look gone from her eyes. "He's been in the worst way. All these years. Hasn't he?"

Ron chewed on the inside of his cheek. "You don't know the half of it."

---


That was the problem with Harry. When a bloke spends all his time thinking about how he's going to die, he's bound to have a very skewed look on life.

There was denial. Avoidance. Unspoken apologies. Fights were too costly to let linger. Because Merlin knows how long he'd be around, right?

Regrets. Building regrets and fuck-ups before he was even close to your time.

Growing up with Harry, Ron started to believe it too. That Harry would die before he should. He didn't believe it because he wanted to, and he didn't believe it because he didn't trust Harry's power. He believed it because it was just easier to.

Anything was easier than trying to convince Harry he'd live to see the age of twenty.

Harry was twenty-three now, and Voldemort had been dead for five years. There were gaping blanks of time that Harry and his friends never thought he would have to fill.

There was also this blank in Ron, a place that felt familiar, carved out for a reason, but void. It was safe to assume that this was the place Harry hadn't been dreaming far enough into the future to fill.

And still wasn't.

---


"You're not going to die." Ron's voice was surprisingly soft considering how drunk he was and his eyes were squinting in an attempt to focus.

Harry's eyebrows drew down. "Sure I am. We all are someday."

"I meant now. Or soon."

The glass Tiffany lamp above their heads shook, wavering light swimming over the table and making Ron feel sick. It took him a moment to realize that it was shaking because Harry's head had hit it. He tried to laugh, but the liquor had done a number on his throat, and that hurt.

Harry grimaced and rubbed the top of his head, eyes following the swinging colors on the wall. "I have no fuckin' idea what you're on about."

"Right." Downing the rest of his glass and blinking through the cigarette smoke and alcohol-blur in his eyes, Ron leaned on his elbows to stare at Harry squarely. "Where do you see yourself in ten years?"

"Dead," Harry said without a moment's thought.

"See, and that's what I'm on about, fuckin' git. You're not going to die. And if you do, it's going to be of old age." Red flopped into Ron's eyes, and he brushed it back. "It's almost brilliant, how you are. Most people are afraid of death. You're fucking afraid of living."

"I'm not afraid of living."

"Sorry, make that petrified."

Then Harry's fingertips were on Ron's knuckles, cold, nails biting the skin. He wasn't saying anything, and Ron worried that, for once, he was right about something. That would fuck with the world order. Almost as much as Harry's second stint as The Boy Who Lived had fucked with it.

---


They never really grew up like the others. That was what made life after the War so hard; that was what made sunlight hurt, that was what gave Ron nightmares still, that was what left them clawing at walls for some kind of understanding of each other. They never gave up on the old ways, because those ways had never failed them before. Until then, of course, with Ron watching Harry sit at his desk across the room, scribbling chicken scratch on a report that Ron or Hermione would have to go back and rewrite legibly later. Harry with his head hanging, his shoulders pulled in on himself, muttering under his breath like Ron wasn't there. Ron, who was gawking at him and wondering when it was that they were going to figure it out.

Ron remembered the day that Hermione had grown up. The day that Ginny had. And Neville, Seamus, Fred and George, all of them. The last day of Hogwarts, Hermione was a woman, no doubting that. The day Ginny and Neville had joined the Order, they had been adults, finally and fully.

And they all took for granted that Harry and Ron had grown up too. A couple extra inches and a war and a lost virginity and having to shave every day; that's what made you a man. Fighting for your life. Adults do that.

It wasn't true. Harry had been fighting for his life since he was eleven. Hell, before then, with those fucking Dursley pigs. Ron had been fighting for Harry's life too, all those years. His own a while later, but mostly for Harry. Ron was Harry's most important thing, and he had to live up to that. He did all he could to never let Harry down, and when the time came to kill Voldemort and be done with it, Ron was standing next to him. Ron was the only one standing next to him, holding off the Death Eaters while Harry and Voldemort duelled.

But Ron wasn't afraid then, in that moment. It was clear where the enemy was, and he was standing between Harry and death, as best he could. That was the easy part. That was what he was sure he existed for. The hard part was the nights they spent awake, listening for nonexistent footsteps or the rustle of a robe. The hard part was expecting to see the Death Mark hovering in the air every time they went back to the Burrow.

Even if they had become men during that time, they wouldn't have known it.

Harry spent every night of the War in Ron's bed, never his own. There was something visceral and alive about holding onto someone in the night, and since neither ever seemed keen on leaving the other out of their sight for less than the time it takes to blink, that was how they slept. Eating alone, fighting alone, pissing alone, fucking breathing alone, wasn't allowed in their friendship.

Ron did it out of an acute need to always be there to protect Harry. He never was sure why Harry needed it, but Hermione told him once she thought it was because Harry wanted to spend time with Ron while he had it. A sick thought, really, but he didn't suppose one reason was any better than the other; they were both pretty dark things to tie a friendship to.

Grown men didn't cling and need. They weren't desperate and frightened. It was a crutch, all of it, and Ron would resent what they had done to themselves, to their relationship, if it wasn't for the fact that the crutch got them out alive.

It didn't function in a Voldemort-free life, though. Without the desperation and the fear of losing what little they had, the clinging and the need seemed forced and childish. Without the cause... well, Harry had grown up almost half his life knowing he was there to kill Voldemort, and Ron had grown up almost half his life knowing he was there to protect Harry.

Purpose. That's what it came down to. And failure, how close he was to it.

He should have known by then that the hardest person to save Harry from was himself.

---


Saturday came and went. Ron slept through half of it, and spent the other half thinking up ways to tell Harry off for not showing up at seven for their weekly dinner. He fell asleep mumbling little retorts and come backs over reruns on the telly Hermione had given him for his last birthday, and he woke up having forgiven Harry at some point in his sleep. Which was why he muttered a groggy "hullo" instead of popping Harry one in the arm like he'd thought of doing.

"I'm sorry I didn't come," Harry whispered, even though Ron was awake and there was no reason to be quiet.

"What time is it?"

He knelt down in front of Ron, his face a messy collage of shadows, contours, and the light from the streetlamps outside the window. "Three in the morning. I just came by to tell you I'm okay. Thought you might worry."

Ron grumbled, the best he could manage, and rolled onto his back. "What happened?"

"I slept through--"

"Should really take up sleeping everyday like normal folks, 'Arry."

"I should, probably," Harry agreed.

"Stay, then. And sleep."

The joint in Harry's elbow popped when he reached up to brush Ron's hair off his forehead. It used to drive Ron mad when he'd do that, but Harry hadn't done in it for years now, and suddenly he felt very much like asking him to do it again.

"You want me to?"

Ron just scooted over on the couch, on his side again, and closed his eyes, waiting.

"Okay." At least it sounded like an "okay," although it could have been an "oh, well." Harry took a moment to take off his shoes and glasses, and then he was sinking onto the old couch, sliding into the oddly-shaped curve of Ron's body that never seemed to fit anyone else quite as well. Ron bent his legs a bit more, catching Harry's perfectly from behind. Feeling the heels of Harry's feet brush his ankles as well as the sigh when he tucked an arm around Harry's waist, a palm to his chest... memories rushed back of soft four-poster beds and hard-packed dirt grounds and cold stone floors, and Merlin, had it really been that long since they'd been like this? He supposed it had.

But it didn't matter. He had it now, his best mate trusting him to be compliant and warm and to let him sleep.

They still weren't grown, but they were together.

---


The workweek was a blur of counter-curses and cramped Ministry offices and staring at Harry a few times when he really should have been focusing on the task at hand. Harry didn't notice, or was at least kind enough to act like he didn't. Ron tried his best to keep it in check, but now he had two nights, one of that unnerving, surreal green pushing him into something pleasant and entirely unpleasant at the same, and another of Harry warm, secure and protected in his arms on a lumpy couch. It would be horribly romantic if they weren't best mates and blokes. If it wasn't a huge white elephant in the room of their friendship. They were in Percy's office taking care of hex-holding envelopes when suddenly Ron realized that he missed Harry kicking him in his sleep.

Wednesday bled into Thursday and right on through to Friday once he figured that one out.

Saturday passed slowly, like the last one had, full of sleep and aimless movement around the flat in an attempt to feel productive and busy. It was cold too, even with the oven on and the heating spells that his Mum had taught him before he moved out in use. The frost was there, and all that was left of Ron's ugly view into a dingy back alley was a smudge of clear window in the middle. Everything felt very small and closed in then. Ron had never wanted so badly to spend a night at the Burrow.

But there was dinner to be had, and Harry did show up this time, noisily and with a blink of darkness.

"Ready to go, mate?" Harry asked as the lights around the flat flickered back on.

"Did you get enough sleep?" was the reply as Ron came out of the bedroom, tugging on a violently orange Cannons pullover.

Harry rubbed the dark circle under one eye and smiled. "Sure. Loads of sleep."

Ron clucked his tongue like Hermione would have done. "Thai?"

"Yeah."

---


Crookshanks died about three years ago, and since then Hermione had bought herself another cat, named Twibbles. It was as bushy as Hermione's hair, with splotches of white and brown over its otherwise black body, and for some unknown reason, it loved Ron more than anyone in the world. Harry had once joked that it was the spirit of Crookshanks, doing it just to spite Ron. Ron thought it was his clothing; lots of strings and fuzzies and warm, scratchy shirts to curl up in, not to mention the heating spells he put on them in winter months, something Harry and Hermione, having grown up with Muggles, never did take to doing.

"Honestly," Hemione huffed as the cat leapt up into Ron's lap, purring louder than ever before and rubbing its head against any part of him that was within reach. She poured a bit of tea and rather pointedly plucked a disgruntled Twibbles from Ron's sweater. "I can't understand why he's so fond of you."

"Same reason you are, probably," Ron said between sips of the scalding tea.

After a polite eye roll, she smiled, settling down across him at her kitchen table, the wriggling cat in one hand and her cup in the other. "If he knew half of what I know about you--"

"He's a cat, 'Mione."

"Oh, I know. Just teasing..." she trailed off then, in that disconcerting way that meant she was about to ask him something he didn't want to answer. "I've been meaning to talk to you, Ron."

"Oh, hell."

"Don't be that way."

"I don't know what you're--" but Ron stopped mid-sentence, now preoccupied with the cat hairs he'd just discovered in his tea. "That thing sheds worse than my sweaters do."

"Are you all right?"

"No, I just swallowed cat hair."

"I meant..." She put down the cup and dropped Twibbles to the floor rather abruptly, earning her an ornery meow. "I wish you wouldn't be like this. I only ask because I care."

The near-tearful tone in her voice was causing an uncomfortable lump in Ron's throat. "I'm fine. Honest."

She puffed up a bit. "You most certainly are not."

Ron was reminded instantly of his Mum, as well as the reason why he and Hermione hadn't continued dating after Hogwarts. Aside from Harry, of course. "I can handle it, Hermione. Dry up the crocodile tears."

A nasty glint - the one she'd had all those years ago when she'd slapped Malfoy - briefly flashed in her eyes, and Ron bit on his tongue to keep from saying anything else. "You know perfectly well that my concern is genuine."

"I'm sorry."

"I don't want apologies; I want to know what's going on."

"Nothing, Hermione. I swear it," Ron lied, reaching over the table to hold one of her hands, to still the shaking, to show he understood.

Her palm caught his thumb, squeezing gently, and she broke into another little smile while Twibbles hopped on the table to get at Ron's lap, knocking the plate of scones to the floor and tipping more brown liquid onto the table cloth.

"Bloody cat," he muttered, and Hermione went back to her tea without a word.

---


Harry wasn't home Sunday night. Two thirty in the morning, with work the next day, no plans that night, and Harry was not at his flat.

Ron didn't apparate into the apartment because Harry needed a sort of privacy Ron hadn't grown up knowing in the Weasley household. The exceptions to the rules were mostly on Harry's side, and it hadn't occured to Ron until that moment how unfair that was. How little time he'd ever spent in Harry's flat. It smelled like detergent and dust, he remembered that much, and it was tidy because Harry had been brought up that way. That was all he could think of now. He stood in the hallway for an hour before Harry came home, trying to remember what was the way to the bathroom, or how Harry fixed his bed.

"Ron?"

"Hmm?" He didn't look up, almost sure he was about to remember what color Harry's couch was. All Ron could think of, really, was Harry curled up on his own couch with him, but he was trying.

"... What're you doing here? It's late."

"Really late, I know. Three?"

"Half-past."

"Where have you been?"

"Out," Harry said, nudging Ron away from his door and undoing the magical lock with a careless word. He walked in and left the door open, so Ron followed.

"Out where?"

"Nowhere."

"Nowhere. That's nice."

Then they were in the kitchen, and Ron remembered that the bathroom was on the right, that Harry's couch was a dull red with a blue throw blanket on it, that the flat really smelled like detergent and stale air, not dust, because Harry was too tidy for that, and that for all his cleanliness, he hardly ever did the dishes. Harry was fixing himself a glass of milk, sniffing the container before he poured it, and it made Ron wonder if Harry ever bothered to come home at all. He pulled himself up on the counter, feet almost touching the floor even from up there, and tugged on the frayed sleeves of his shirt, eyes following Harry back to the ice box.

"Why were you waiting outside my door?" Harry leaned a hip against the counter, very near to Ron's swinging legs.

Clipped and anxious. "Waiting for you."

"Something wrong?"

"No. Maybe." Ron rolled his wand between his fingers, wondering when he'd even pulled it out. The tip was chipped and he hadn't polished it in ages. Probably time for a new one. "I don't know, Harry."

"Don't know what?" Harry leaned on Ron's thigh, offering him some milk and shrugging when he declined. "If something's wrong, you know it, right?"

"It's you, mate."

"Me?"

"We've come a long way. Together."

"Mmm." Harry downed the rest of his glass and put it in the sink with the other dishes. It clicked and rolled over a plate, almost breaking against the side of the sink. He didn't seem to notice. His fingers squeezed Ron's knee, and his elbow - bony as ever - dug into Ron's thigh. "Still the thing I'd miss most."

"I am?"

"Of course. Is that what this is about? Were you doubting it?"

Ron thought about that. "No."

"What then?"

Harry's kitchen window had a bit of frost too, crystalline jags of cold crawling onto the glass. Suffocating. Ron wondered what would happen if it was his silences causing a chill for once instead of Harry's.

"I should head home," he said, sliding off the counter. "Work in a few hours."

Harry's fingers were gripping his forearm, though. "Can I come?"

"What for? You're home."

"Ron, please."

His nails were cutting dents into Ron's skin once again, and there was desperation in his tone, on his face, that made Ron think of Avada Kadavra and the Dark Mark and explosions of green light. It took him a moment to realize he was hugging Harry, and that Harry was all but clinging to his waist. He rested his chin on the top of Harry's head, blinking back the sudden burn of tears in his eyes. This wasn't how it was supposed to be.

But Ron said "okay, let's go" just the same.

---


They were still tangled up in that awkward, tugging embrace when they apparated into Ron's bedroom, and it took the lights a whole five seconds to come back on this time. He could only imagine the kind of shortages - now he sounded like his father - Harry had been making all over Ron's building the last five years.

"All right?" Ron asked softly. When Harry didn't answer, Ron kissed his temple. "Come on, bedtime, 'Arry."

It took a while to get shoes, shirts and glasses off, and then the duvet slipped off the bed again. Ron was already half asleep by the time Harry finally curled up against him. It was different this time, though, because Harry was facing him and his hand was holding Ron's wrist very tightly. Ron's started to form a question somewhere in this throat, but it died instantly at the dry, hot press of Harry's lips on his jaw line. There wasn't any way to let his brain function much in a situation like that, and he let a few things slip, namely a groan.

Another stupid, frost-bitten silence followed before he decided to take what was offered and kissed Harry on the mouth. Scuffling followed, lust-driven, awkward sort of movements. Harry tasted a little sour - the milk, probably - but he was needy and noisy; his hips were softer than Ron expected for someone so fucking skinny, but his elbows were as sharp as ever, and Harry had to apologize quickly between wet, messy kisses when he jabbed Ron right in the ribs. They laughed then, and it was healthy, true laughter. He wondered if maybe this was what growing up was. Laughing at the little tragedies and accepting the bigger ones.

Something Harry said then echoed in Ron's mind, not like a gunshot or a clap of thunder, but like a chord of music, a carried note, reverberating and tearing at him even as it put things together.

All he could think to do was say it back, and all he could actually force his body to do was to show him. He meant it. Harry needed to know he meant it.

There was a damp trail of warmth down Harry's neck, muscles tensing and straining under Ron's mouth. It felt like melting frost, having Harry's cool but comforting fingers on his forearm, on his stomach, on his thigh. Ron could see through the patch of clarity in the nearest window that it was snowing, but his focus blurred, the weather forgotten, when Harry's hips pushed up to crush his. The world lost all meaning and everything narrowed down to this stinging moment; Harry's ass cupped in Ron's hand, his fingers digging into copper hair, teeth nipping a bottom lip, wailing when the tide pushed again, trying to come in before it should.

Green and black and oh, fuck, this wasn't real. Wasn't, wasn't, wasn't, but it was, water pooling on a windowsill, sharp hisses cutting the air at curious, rough touches. Grappling with clothes, and laughing again, because sex was funny, and it was even more hilarious when he was doing it with his best friend. With the same bloke who saw him beaten and bruised and angry and violently sick and vulnerable and crying and afraid and a multitude of other things, (all of which Ron rather thought he was on the verge of being).

"Fuck, you--" but it was all Harry could really say, heated bare skin making words impossible to handle, and he just tugged Ron into the area between his legs and whimpered.

"Okay." At least, that's what Ron tried to say; he wasn't sure it came out as anything coherent. Not that it mattered because they both knew, and he was searching for his wand somewhere in the bed, flushing when Harry found it for him first, tangled up in his jeans.

"There, just--"

Ron did, and Harry gasped a little, swore. "Fuck, that's..."

"Are you sure?"

"God, yes."

That caused a twinge in Ron's belly - lower, really - because Harry didn't usually say things in that tone, with that word, unless he wanted it. Really wanted it.

Still, he hesitated, wavered, hovering above Harry and wondering over the curve of his cheekbone, the jut of his chin, the rasping rise and fall of his chest. It sunk in, that this is what they'd wanted, but it was growing up, too, and when you grow up, you don't look back.

"Ron."

"I know."

His thumbs rubbed and then pressed along the cut of muscle near Harry's hips, and Harry moaned, a raw, throaty sound that reminded Ron of the times that he'd cried out in his sleep with a stinging scar, sobbing quietly until the pain would stop (and sometimes long after it already had). Ron never slept when that happened; just watched the sky lighten and petted Harry's hair.

Lips feathered over the cut, as if trying to assure that the past remained where it was, and Harry shuddered, his breath ragged when he let it go, and Ron used that moment to take and slide in. Harry's nails ran angry furrows of red on Ron's shoulders when that happened, and Ron was so far gone that it didn't even register, it didn't compute, it didn't matter. There was this only this: impossible, tight, hot and fucking unforgivable. Why had they waited this long?

And Harry was saying those words again, between the pants and the oaths, over and over again, like a mantra. Ron thought of all those times when he first wakes up, and the sunlight bites his eyes. Bright and glorious and too much, so he looks away and holds it in a little, trying hard to take it gradually and eventually just opening his eyes again, letting the intensity roll over him until he could handle it.

He said it back this time. Harry kissed him when he did, and pushed back, and everything was swallowed down a drain, with fuzzy, drunken images and blistering touches. Then hanging, damn near over the cliff, rocking, only to fall over at the idea of how, at this moment, he wasn't just himself.

Savored while it lasted.

---


Of all the things Ron ever wanted (a new broomstick, clothes that weren't hand-me-down, some privacy for once in his life), the want to give all that he could was most prevalent. Not what he was willing, or what someone would let him get away with, but what he was truly capable of.

Harry challenged him, many times, during their friendship. To be brave, to be clever, to be loyal. Ron had failed a few times, but he'd always learned something, and Harry had always forgiven him for his mistakes. Fucking Harry taught him something, probably more than all the other ill-advised adventures they'd ever had together had.

Ron would never be to the world what Harry was, and, after all he had seen Harry go through just to be human and himself, he didn't want to be. There was something dirty now about terms like The Boy Who Lived and Famous Harry Potter and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Fearing. The one who stopped the destruction as well as the one who destroyed.

Ron would never have to face that fear, or be feared like that. His true capabilities and powers wouldn't be common knowledge, and the fame and adoration and terror inherent in that would never be his deal with. To the world, he was the background in Harry's life.

To Harry, though, he was life. He was the hero. He was the person who stood between Harry and death, and didn't think anything but "it's what I want to do." Not what he had to do, not what he needed to do, but what he wanted to do. He wanted to stand by Harry, he wanted to protect Harry, and he wanted to love Harry.

He'd never stopped to consider that loyalty, truth, intentions, could mean more to Harry than defeating Voldemort had meant to the wizarding world.

Fucking Harry taught Ron that his love wasn't less meaningful than bravery and power, just different.

"It's a good thing," Harry said, hushed, when they lay tangled up afterward, staring at the ceiling and waiting for the air to stop crackling, for the sweat to cool.

"Reading minds now?" Ron smiled, squeezing Harry gently. Checking he was still there, probably.

"Depends on what you were thinking of."

"I was thinking of how different you and I are."

"Oh." And Harry definitely smiled then. "Yeah, very good thing."

"What were you thinking?"

"That you finally gave in."

Ron sniffed a little, brushing Harry's hair away from tickling his nose. "Gave in?"

"Ron, I've loved you for years, and you know it."

"Did not."

"Honest?"

"Honest."

"Fuckin' daft."

"I can be," and Ron sat up, eyes on the flecks of snow sticking to the window. "It wasn't as easy as all that, though."

Even in the dark, Ron could see some of the smile fall away from Harry's face, and he sat up too, pulling the blanket over his lap to save himself. "I know it wasn't. But..."

"But what?"

"But if we're ever to let the War, and the people we lost in it, go, we have to accept who we've become." Harry would have sounded wise and ethereal if it wasn't for the fact that he was talking so quickly. Afraid Ron didn't want to hear it, probably.

"Queers?" Ron said with something he hoped was akin to indifference or sarcasm.

Harry didn't buy it. "Grown, Ron."

"Would be acceptable if I thought we were."

"Aren't we?"

There was quiet; not a cold one, but it was heavy, and Ron could walk away from it. He slid off the bed, searching for and then stepping into his shorts before leaning on the windowsill, wincing when his back brushed the freezing glass.

"Dependency makes..." That thought didn't follow though, and Ron tried again. "We need and depend like children do, don't you think?"

Sheets rustled and Harry was by his side, stark naked and nuzzling his cheek. Ignoring, as well, when Ron didn't seem moved by the gesture. "We need like adults do. They depend on people, too."

"I know," Ron said, even though he didn't. He splayed his fingers on Harry's right shoulder, cradling the muscle there, then let his palm drag down the curve of his back. "Sharing a bed, though. Not wanting to be alone."

"That just means we're meant to be lovers as well as friends. Doesn't mean we're not--" Ron lips tried to cut him off, but Harry shied away, meeting his eyes as best he could in the dim light from the window. Morning was coming on. "Listen to me, will you? There's nothing wrong about us other than whatever the War put us through, and whatever we've put each other through. The bollocks I've put on myself for feeling this way for you, feeling like I'm meant to die; that's what's childish. And you, running from this now, is immature." Ron started to argue, but Harry gave him a sharp look, the one he used to stop him from saying something stupid or insensitive. He'd been getting that look since he was eleven. And it probably said enough about them that Harry knew what he was going to say before he even got the chance.

"No one wants to be alone. Even more so, I don't want to be without you."

"There was never a question of that."

Harry winced, turning his eyes to window, clicking his jaw. Ron hated that noise. Until Harry was gone, then he missed it. "There was never a question of me staying in your life." Harry still didn't answer, and a tiny lick of panic started to rise in Ron's chest. "It's a question of if you're staying in mine."

The ice melted a bit. Not completely, but close. "Are you asking?"

"If we're going to do this adult crap, might as well be together."

Ron's back pressed to the window with the awkward, jubilant force of Harry's embrace, and Ron recoiled with a yelp. There was laughter again, and it wasn't childish at all, just reassuring. And very real. Their noses bumped when they leaned for a kiss, and Ron thought they still had a few things to learn as adults. Lots of practice in those things, he thought.

"I'll never get rid of you now."

"Watch your mouth. I could curse you into oblivion."

"I remember. I was there."

Silence. Not frozen, not biting, not even tense. Just there, warm and open. Comfortable, like an action without words. A void speaking for itself. Everything was understood. Everything but one thing.

"Hey, Harry?"

"Mmm?"

Ron pulled his arm up to drape over Harry's slightly lop-sided shoulders. "Where were you tonight?"

He smiled again, a hand straying of its own volition to play with Ron's hair. "Waiting in your flat for you to get home."

"Oh, hell," Ron laughed.

---


A couple weeks later, Ron woke up in a way he preferred to avoid nowadays: groping around blindly, sleep in his eyes and his muscles sore, to find that Harry wasn't next to him. An irrational moment of panic later, he remembered it was Saturday morning, and Harry was off having breakfast with Remus like he always did.

It took another twenty minutes to finally manage to get out of bed and into the bathroom, bare feet smarting on the cold tile. "Fucking heating spells just don't--"

Whatever heating spells didn't do, though, seemed not to matter anymore, because Harry had left a three-word message for Ron on the bathroom mirror, glittering in magically-applied frost.

Ron leaned against the sink on one hand, scrutinizing the blue-white letters, noting that Harry's poor handwriting even transferred to spells. He pressed a finger to the corner of the "I" and grimaced when it melted beneath his fingertip. Horribly romantic.

Smiling, he muttered a preservation spell and then went about brushing his teeth.
 
 
 
just_for_kicksjust_for_kicks on June 16th, 2004 03:38 am (UTC)
Oh man, this was really wonderful. Harry/Ron and Brian/Justin are my two favorite parings and you've written them both so right in each of your stories (I went through and read them all--couldn't resist!) Anyway, I hope its ok if I friend you? *Also on you're regular LJ, Rupert Grint is so freaking adorable!*
By LardenceLover: Brian/Justinbylardencelover on June 16th, 2004 03:58 am (UTC)
You love Harry/Ron and Brian/Justin? You're my new best friend! Lol.

I'm glad you liked all my stories that much, and thank you for reading!

Anyone's welcome to friend this LJ. You're welcome to friend my regular one too. I'll friend you back.
just_for_kicksjust_for_kicks on June 17th, 2004 02:34 am (UTC)
Yea, there are a lot of people who are Brian/Justin fans, but I can't seem to find many Harry/Ron ones (I see a LOT of Draco). And dude, good fic is hard to come by, so reading yours are so refreshing. I've friended both your journals =0)
By LardenceLoverbylardencelover on June 17th, 2004 05:13 am (UTC)
I'll friend you back asap. :)
IT'S FOR THE HAMSTER THAT I'M GONNA BUY!: true love in a lake!overloved on July 10th, 2004 04:39 pm (UTC)
This is completely and totally everything I love about Harry and Ron. The way you twist Ron's memories of the war and growing up with Harry together with what takes place in the present of the story is so perfect. And the emotion and mood are so well-crafted. I loved every minute of it.

I'm going to rec this at buy_them_ipods and in my journal.

Whee!
By LardenceLover: Harry/Ronbylardencelover on July 10th, 2004 10:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, for both reading and giving me this wonderful feedback. As I've said before, I really just love writing these two, so...

Lovely icon, btw.

Thank you for the recs!
(Anonymous) on September 15th, 2004 11:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, my gosh...

Just a short note to say that I *loved* this. Truly brilliant!!
By LardenceLoverbylardencelover on September 16th, 2004 03:14 am (UTC)
Thanks, if you ever see this! :)
jazzypomjazzypom on January 3rd, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
Painful
to read, but in a good way. Harry has post tramautic stress syndrome times unlimited, and doesn't even know it.

The Boy Who Lived, does not know how to live,and actually learns how to do it with the aid of his friend. I liked the fact that the story took it's time in getting there, and we see Ron coming into his own truth, his own being. He is not the hero, but much more than sidekick, he's according to Harry "Still the thing I'd miss most."

The sex actually helped the story here, because it cements a bond and adds another layer to a promise. Good for Harry, living as himself, and not for anyone else!

By LardenceLoverbylardencelover on January 4th, 2005 12:59 am (UTC)
Re: Painful
Thank you so much for the insightful feedback. It was greatly appreciated, and I'm glad you liked the story. :)
Shadowiamshadow on September 21st, 2007 04:39 am (UTC)
This is pure poetry. Melancholic bliss. A lot of writers don't realise that the scene and the "window dressing" is often more important than dialogue or actions.

You probably won't see this comment after all this time, but thank you for this fic. I found it via pghpatronus's reclist.