"What's it usually got in it when you go in?"
Ron looked at him sidelong, then looked back at the stretch of blank wall that sometimes became the Room of Requirement. "I don't go there by myself, idiot."
"Oh." Harry thought he might be blushing, but at least in the dim light it would be hard for Ron to tell. "Then when you and Hermione --"
Ron turned his whole head to stare at Harry as though he'd just suggested an invigorating run through the Forbidden Forest. "Are you mad? We're not the ones with an invisibility cloak, remember?"
"The Head Girl can go where she likes, I should think."
Ron snorted. "Maybe under Dumbledore, but not any more. Professor Milkposset reckons curfew is part of her sacred duty to help us little children forget about that nasty war. And the Head Boy is more than willing to help her enforce it."
Of course he was. "However bad it is, you can always rely on Malfoy to make it worse," Harry said.
"Kind of comforting, really," Ron said. "After all, children need consistency in their lives." His imitation of the new Headmistress' high-pitched, singsong tone was so spot-on that Harry couldn't help snickering.
"You come here by yourself?"
Harry stopped laughing. "Sometimes." Barnabas the Barmy gave the two of them a wave from his tapestry, and then groaned as a troll took advantage of his inattention to give him a hearty bonk on the head. Harry flinched in sympathy as he and Ron walked past, turned around, and walked past again.
On the third pass, he turned expectantly, but the door didn't appear.
"What do you find here?" Ron said.
Harry stopped walking. "You're supposed to be concentrating."
When Ron went on looking at him, he sighed. "Different things," he said. "Books I need, sometimes." Complete silence. Solitude. "Once a pretty lively suit of armor to practice dueling with." Once Crookshanks and two or three cats he'd never seen before, who'd herded him into an enormous armchair, then curled up all over him and purred at him till he fell asleep.
Ron was still frowning at him. Harry decided he'd shared more than enough personal information. He checked the Prophet under his arm to be sure the cover feature was folded in so Ron couldn't see it. "Come on," he said. "And this time, focus."
Even without the Prophet, it probably would still have been difficult to clear his head. It always was, these days. He didn't care what Milkposset said, you couldn't wipe all the blood and curses out of your head by pretending none of it had happened.
And as soon as he managed to block the sneering headlines out of his head, and then shut off the green flashes that crept up behind his eyes, he heard footsteps. He turned to see Eloise Midgen approaching, with Ernie McMillan hovering protectively over her as usual. She always wore her robe open, these days, whatever the weather -- her pregnancy was barely visible, and she wanted to make sure no one missed it.
"Whatever are you boys doing up here?" she said with that kindergarten-teacher voice that most of the girls were picking up from the headmistress.
"And have you got a permission slip?" Ernie glowered.
Harry tucked the newspaper more firmly under his arm and fished a piece of paper out of his pocket. It looked very official: Hermione had helped him transfigure it out of one of his innumerable Ministry citations. When Ron had teased her about breaking rules, her mouth had thinned out until it almost wasn't there at all. "There are things bigger than Vesta Milkposset's petty little rules."
Now Harry flipped the document out for Ernie to look at. "Got to have a quiet place to revise for those last two N.E.W.T.s," he said. "I'm surprised you two can manage it. Your common room must be a lot quieter than ours."
"Oh, that." Ernie flapped a hand. "Got a job at Eloise's brother's flying carpet factory, haven't I, so no need to worry. And Eloise isn't going to take them, are you, love? Strains the brain. Not good for baby."
"I won't need N.E.W.T.s to be a mother," Eloise cooed, resting her left hand showily on the barely discernible swelling of her belly so that the light caught the little chip of an engagement ring Ernie had given her.
"Come on, love, you need your rest," Ernie said, and Eloise simpered at Harry and Ron and waddled away as if she were eight months gone rather than eight weeks.
Harry stared after her, momentarily speechless. Eloise had been at the second Battle of Hogsmeade, brisk and dirty-faced, casting healing spells assembly-line style as Ginny and Michael levitated an endless line of the wounded past her. It was less than three months ago. There was no trace of that witch left in her now.
Beside him, Ron blew out a breath. "Barking mad, the lot of them," he said. "You'd think they'd forgotten."
As if you and Hermione are any less joined at the hip than Eloise and Ernie, Harry thought. But he kept his mouth shut. After this morning's paper, the last thing he wanted was to get started on the subject of romance.
"C'mon," he said instead. "Let's give it another try." And he started walking up the corridor again.
He hadn't really been concentrating on anything in particular the first time, as the room usually knew what he needed better than he did. But he'd never had the door refuse to appear, either, so maybe when you had more than one person you had to try harder.
He tried to think of something that would make him feel better, but he couldn't manage to come up with anything more specific than what had come into his head in the common room after breakfast: I need to go someplace and talk to Ron.
Not to tell him about the dreams. That would be a terrible idea. Just to talk to somebody who might understand.
Because sometimes he felt as if he'd been knocked into some weird parallel world without knowing it. Curfews, restricted reading lists, chaperoned dances -- they had less freedom now than in second year. The carriages were now pulled by stoical brown ponies, the thestrals having been deemed "too upsetting for the young" and banished to the Forbidden Forest. He might have got the occasional glimpse of them if the "children" had been allowed within half a mile of the place.
Of course the students complained, but most of them didn't seem to want to explore or learn anything new; they chafed because they wanted to "settle down," to "go back to normal life," which apparently meant "get married, move to a house with a perfectly geometrical lawn, and have babies." Half the sixth- and seventh-years were engaged already -- or, in the phrase preferred on the Prophet's announcements page, "soon to be sharing bed and board" -- and first-years walked about hand in hand like little married couples.
It was as though their greatest ambition was to turn into the Dursleys. Maybe some curse had gone rogue and Obliviated the lot of them.
And this morning's paper -- well, there was a lot of interest, apparently, in whether or not it had got him.
He wasn't sure whether it had got Ron and Hermione or not. If Ron turned out to be all right, maybe sometime soon he could drag Hermione up here and have a conversation with her, too.
It'd be nice to talk with someone normal, for a change.
With a start, he saw that the gleaming door had appeared in its usual place. "Oh," he said foolishly. "There it is."
Ron turned the handle and looked inside. "Smaller than usual, isn't it?"
Smaller than it had been for DA practices, of course -- god, it seemed ages ago. It was about the same size that it usually was when Harry came alone: not cramped but cozy. Instead of torches, it was lit with candles. He cast a locking spell and looked around at what the room had provided this time.
There were two wooden chairs and a kitchen table. On the table were two bowls. Harry could smell them from the doorway. "Chicken soup."
"Great," Ron said. "Even the Room of Requirement's on the New Domestication. Look at that. Looks like a Witch Weekly cover photo."
Harry felt suddenly defensive, as though the room were a person and he didn't want Ron to hurt its feelings. "If the Room were in league with the rest of them, all it would give us is a stairway back to our own safe little common room," he said. "Smells good, anyway."
"It does, at that." Ron sat down and raised his spoon in a single motion. "I wouldn't have thought it was the one thing I needed most, but I could definitely do with a snack."
"When couldn't you?" Sometimes Hermione would suggest that perhaps Ron had finished growing, but he always started up again. His robe had been extendolimbi'd so many times that the armpits were down around his hips now, but even so, you could see his bony ankles as he walked.
Hermione assured Harry that he was getting taller, too, but he seemed to be doing it at a slower rate than everyone around him. Which made it even rougher to live with people who spent every waking moment playing grown-up.
With a sigh, he sat down, tucked the Prophet (face down) under the side of his bowl, and picked up his own spoon.
He had no idea why the room thought he needed soup, but it was quite good soup. When he'd eaten the last spoonful, he looked curiously at the bowl to see whether it would refill with soup, or with something else, but it remained an empty bowl, with a bit of broth at the bottom and a celery leaf clinging to one side.
He looked up to find Ron's eyes pinning him. "What were you expecting to find in here, Harry?"
Harry sighed. "I don't know. I keep coming back, and there's always something that helps, but it never lasts long." He shrugged. "Suppose I just needed to talk to somebody."
Ron didn't point out that the two of them had been together pretty much continually since they woke up that morning, or that it was Saturday and they'd had plenty of time to talk. Maybe some of Hermione's tact was rubbing off through sheer contact.
He hadn't noticed before, but the chair wasn't very comfortable. He shifted awkwardly in the seat, then stood up and walked over to where there ought to have been a window. There wasn't one, though -- just the same painting that was always here, of a chair with a gray cloak draped over it and a painfully thin, aristocratic-looking dog crouched beside it.
The chair was empty, as always, but the dog gave Harry a genteel little whuff of greeting before putting its nose on its paws and going back to sleep.
"Ever come here with Hannah?" Ron's chair squeaked on the floor as he pushed it back from the table.
"I -- er -- " Harry looked blankly at the painting. The dog snored softly. "That's not -- we sort of -- we aren't. Going anywhere together." He'd broken it off that morning, before she'd had a chance to see the photo spread, so as to save her the trouble of either breaking it off herself or demanding an engagement ring right away.
"Sorry, mate." Ron came up beside him, looking curiously at the painting, but when no one showed up to sit in the chair, he looked at Harry instead. "You do have the worst luck with girls, don't you?"
"I think I'm looking for something impossible."
"If I knew that, I wouldn't have a problem."
Ron was looking at him very intently now, and Harry looked away under his scrutiny. He was surprised to feel Ron's hand on his hair, and a moment later he was shocked into near-breathlessness to feel Ron's lips brushing his cheek.
He closed his eyes, holding onto the sensation for a little longer, putting off the moment when he'd have to say something -- and Ron's lips touched down gently again, this time on his mouth.
Harry's eyes flew open. Ron looked pink and nervous, but there was nothing on his face to suggest that he'd done something as shocking as what he'd just done. "I thought you were --" Not like me, Harry thought. Normal.
"Not entirely, no," Ron said.
"Oh." The hand that had been in his hair had gone round to the back of his neck. It was hard to concentrate, feeling that. "I thought you and Hermione were --" What was the word? He'd better not say 'faithful.' Not unless he wanted Ron to change his mind. "Exclusive."
"Yeah," Ron said. "We, er." He scratched his ear with his other hand, then went on very quickly, not meeting his eyes: "We-have-a-Harry-clause."
Ron's face briefly flushed a painful-looking red. He hadn't taken his hand away, though. "That's what Hermione called it. Early on, when we talked about it. Her and me, and nobody else, and for good if we can manage it -- except if it was you, then that was all right and no harm done."
"That's --" Harry didn't even know how he felt. There was a lump in his throat, and he wanted to laugh but he wasn't sure he'd be able to stop. "That's the maddest thing I've ever heard, Ron." He looked off past Ron's shoulder. "Unless you're going to tell me that's some sort of wizard thing?"
"Well, no," Ron said. "It's more of a Ron-and-Hermione thing." He looked suddenly very serious, and much older than usual. "I mean, I'm in love with her, Harry, you've got to understand, but we know our limits. And we knew that if you ever wanted one of us --"
Harry swallowed again. He did, and then again he didn't. Didn't want to be left out of their circle. Didn't want to split them up.
Didn't want, if the truth were known, to have one of them and not have the other one.
He stifled a bitter laugh. It was the one possibility that his so-called adoring public didn't seem to have considered.
Ron was looking at him again, with his head on one side and the thoughtful expression that Harry usually only saw across a chessboard. The one that, ever since Ron had got too mature to gloat, was the closest he ever came to saying, "You don't know it yet, but you're about eight moves from getting pounded into the ground."
Now he gave a squeeze with the hand that was still on the back of Harry's neck. "Listen, Harry," he said. "Let me go get Hermione. This conversation isn't something we ought to be having without her."
There was a sudden chill on Harry's skin as Ron took his hand away and stepped briskly back.
"What conversation?" Harry said, with the familiar sense that things had just changed very suddenly and left him heading at full speed toward the place where the Snitch wasn't any more.
Ron was already opening the door, but then he let it go and crossed the room in two long strides and dropped another light kiss on Harry's mouth. "She's a lot better than me at explaining things," he said, catching the door before it even swung all the way shut. "Don't go anywhere."
Harry stared at the door for a long time with his fingers on his lips.
Fifteen minutes. No way Ron could have got all the way to Gryffindor Tower and back. Harry didn't need to worry.
Twenty minutes. Harry sat down in one of the chairs and immediately got up again. Ron would have to repeat the whole conversation to her. That would take some time.
Twenty-five minutes. Maybe Malfoy had caught Ron coming out and tattled to Milkposset. Ron could be sitting on the chair with the ducklings painted on it, getting a few minutes of the headmistress's soft-voiced understanding and comfort before being sent back to Gryffindor with a pat on the head and a Light-Up Lolly.
Thirty minutes. The dog's eyes followed Harry as he paced across the room and back. What on earth was he telling Hermione, anyway? Whatever conversation Ron'd been talking about, Hermione probably didn't think it needed having. She'd be explaining all the drawbacks to Ron, and he'd agree with her reasoning. He always did, eventually.
Maybe they were laughing at him.
Forty minutes. Maybe Ron had kissed her hello and it had got out of hand. Lavender and Parvati were in Trelawney's NEWT class, so a lot of the time Hermione had the room to herself. Ron would unbutton her shirt and she'd push his Cannon's T-shirt up and he'd break a long kiss to say, "Harry --" and she'd laugh that low laugh of hers and say, "Forget about --"
He jumped. He hadn't even heard the door opening, but there was Hermione, with Ron right behind her. She was smiling that familiar smile that you saw when you finally got the right answer after a couple of tries.
"Harry," she said again, and she was a little out of breath, as though she'd hurried all the way. Her eyes were sparkling. "Finally came around, did you?"
He reeled back, feeling as if he'd been slapped. "What did you do," he snapped at Ron, "place bets?"
"Hey!" Ron said. "I don't know what she's on about."
"When do you ever?" she said. It wasn't that the two of them were any less rude to each other than they'd been before they were a couple -- it was just that their tone of voice had changed. "But if you want to live a normal life, Harry, you're going to have to live it with us, because the rest of the world has gone quite mad."
He blinked at her. This normal life business followed from Ron's Harry clause how, exactly? She was looking at Ron now, smiling a great big shiny smile. "He can come to Rome with us -- don't you want to, Harry? Because the Continent's a little less Milkpossety than Britain, and anyhow my flat's enormous, really, the bed is more than big enough for three, plus Ron will be playing away matches most of the time anyway, and if you don't have any other plans, I'm sure the Volare Broomstick people would love to have you as a test flyer --"
"Rome? Volare? What?" It wasn't really that unusual for him to be several steps behind Hermione, but there usually weren't beds involved. "Hermione, would you mind telling me what on earth you're --" And then his brain stuttered to a stop at the feeling of Hermione's small, cool hand on the back of his neck. And a moment later they both had their arms around him, Ron so tall and safe and Hermione so soft and welcoming, and all he could do was clutch Ron's T-shirt and bury his face in Hermione's sweet-smelling hair and take deep breaths until the lump in his throat subsided.
When Ron turned his head to whisper to Hermione, Harry could feel Ron's hair sliding against his face, and the whisper was more of a murmur, anyway, pitched low and intimate but plenty loud enough for him to hear: "Don't you think you ought to tell Harry what on earth you're talking about?"
He could hear a smile in Hermione's voice. "I think we could probably convince him to trust us for a bit. Couldn't we, Harry?" And she tipped her face up a little to kiss his chin, his jaw. "Just this once let us be the ones with the plan and you be the one who ducks under the cloak and goes along with it?"
And the strange thing was that that sounded good. Really, really good. The three of them hadn't needed to sneak around together since Harry had strangled Voldemort, and he'd missed it. And it would be a relief to let somebody else make the plans for a change.
Not to mention the sensation of Ron's lashes brushing his skin, and Hermione's breasts pressed softly into his chest, and the way the two of them made him feel warm all over.
He nosed Hermione's hair out of the way and bent to kiss her cheek. She gave a sweet little sigh, and before he could do it again, he felt Ron's mouth on his own cheek. He smiled, and Hermione smiled, and then Ron bent forward over Harry's shoulder and kissed her softly on the mouth.
He'd seen them kissing before, entirely too often, but never at such close range that he could actually hear the tiny sound their lips made as they separated. And then Hermione kissed him, too -- god, her mouth was so soft -- and no sooner did their lips part than Ron was nudging his face around and kissing him, too. And Ron didn't stop with a simple press of lips this time, either, but ran his tongue over the inside of Harry's lower lip.
The one who made a noise at that wasn't Harry but Hermione, and she pressed her open mouth to his, doing that same tongue sweep Ron had done -- of course; they'd learned to kiss from each other.
And after this he was going to kiss the same way they did.
"You look good," Ron sighed in his ear, sounding turned on and surprised, and Harry felt his knees close to buckling. Hermione pulled her mouth from his, breathing fast, and said, "Do you think we could sit down?"
They broke apart at that, awkwardly, and looked around, but the room was just as it had been. Kitchen table, two chairs, lino floor. Two empty soup bowls. He had a sinking feeling that reality was against them.
"Maybe," Hermione said, "we're meant to go out and come back in again."
It was hard to stop touching them -- to let go of Hermione's hand, to feel Ron's arm unwind from his shoulders. Hard to go out into the corridor and wait as two giggling fifth-year girls went by in matching gloves and purses, whispering under their breath about bridesmaid dresses.
When the sound of voices had faded, the three of them walked self-consciously down the corridor, turned and walked back up, turned again and approached the door.
Harry had a moment of hysterical worry -- what if it gave them some sort of awful honeymoon suite thing, all red and pink with a vibrating bed? Or what if it decided what they really needed was a nice quiet ward at St. Mungo's for even considering such a thing?
Then the door swung open, and Hermione, who was in the front, began to laugh.
"What?" Harry pushed past Ron, and then he laughed, too. The Room had given them a nearly perfect re-creation of the Gryffindor Common Room.
A fire hissed in the fireplace, and it was so familiar and so homey that Harry sighed, feeling completely relaxed for the first time in days. It was almost exactly the same, except that there were no doors leading up to the bedrooms, and some of the furniture wasn't quite the same shape, and there were a lot of unfamiliar squishy red-and-gold poufs.
The copy of the Prophet was still there, lying on the floor beside one of the armchairs. Fortunately it was still face-down.
"Brilliant." Ron had got ahead of him. "Look, Hermione, our couch got bigger."
It was true. The little loveseat where Ron and Hermione liked to snuggle was now both wider and deeper, plenty big enough for three.
Ron immediately lounged comfortably in his usual spot in the corner of the couch, stretching his long legs out toward the fire. But instead of taking up her usual position tucked under his arm, Hermione took a seat in the middle of the couch and waved at Harry to sit between them.
The minute he sat down, Hermione kissed him, sitting up and pressing him back until he had to rest his head on the high couch back. The taste of her was just starting to be familiar to him, something hard to define but somehow similar to the faint scent of her that he'd known since they were children. It had always been comforting, that Hermione smell, but he'd never known it would be so exciting -- much more than kissing other girls, as if there were some boundary he was used to that wasn't there now, so he could get closer than ever before.
And then there was breath stirring the hair around his ear, and Ron's laughing voice: "She always hogs all the good stuff." Ron's hand turned his face, breaking the kiss so that Hermione uttered a little breathy surprised noise, but Harry couldn't explain it to her because Ron was kissing him.
Harry had never kissed a boy -- he'd wanted to, but it had always seemed too risky, somehow, especially now when any relationship that didn't make babies was suspect. Ron was rougher than any girl had ever been; he took control, nudging Harry's head into a better position, using his lips to press Harry's mouth open wider. His lips were a little chapped, rough where Hermione's had been smooth. And, yes, Ron's nose was longer than any nose Harry had ever had to maneuver around.
Harry smiled at that thought, and Ron pulled back and grinned lazily down at him.
"Keep going," Hermione said. "I like watching you."
"Bossy witch," Ron muttered, still grinning, and he kissed Harry again.
After a moment, Harry felt Hermione lay her head on his shoulder. After another moment he felt a movement against his belly and opened one eye to see Ron and Hermione holding hands across his body. Was she going to feel left out? They'd been at this an awfully long time.
Just as he thought it, Ron's hand lifted and tucked into Hermione's hair, and she raised her head, looking from one to the other of them as if she wanted to kiss someone but wasn't sure who. She pressed forward with her face against theirs, and the three of them tried to kiss at the same time, which didn't work at all but was weirdly exciting just the same, and finally Ron pulled away, leaving Hermione to kiss Harry while he bent his mouth to Harry's neck, making him shiver.
Hermione's kisses were a little sloppier this time. Harry wondered if he tasted different to her now that he'd been kissing Ron for so long. Ron's face was still close, sometimes kissing Harry's cheek and sometimes, he guessed, kissing hers.
After a moment he felt Ron lift his glasses off and put them on the little side table where he sometimes set out his chess set. Harry felt momentarily very vulnerable, and then Hermione reached up and dropped a kiss on each of his eyelids. No one had ever done that before, and it was so sweet it made his throat hurt. Ron took advantage of her movement to take over Harry's mouth again.
Hermione giggled when she saw she'd been displaced. She leaned nearer, and Harry could hear that she was whispering something in Ron's ear.
"Dunno," Ron said, "ask him," and then went back to a series of experiments with his teeth and Harry's lower lip that were beginning to make Harry feel a little desperate.
"Harry?" Hermione's mouth was against his ear now. "Can we touch you?"
Ron chose that moment to nibble at the corner of Harry's mouth, and he couldn't really concentrate all that well, but the question didn't make any sense. They were touching him. Hermione's fingers were tickling the back of his neck, and Ron's arm was wrapped around his shoulder, and they were both pressed up against his sides.
"Mm?" he asked, and Ron snickered, and then Harry jumped when somebody ran a hand up his thigh and somebody began rubbing one nipple through his shirt.
"Oh, god!" He had to pull his mouth free to breathe, letting his head fall back on the back of the couch, and he heard them both laughing, but he didn't care. Ron's hand was pinching now -- it had to be Ron's; girls never knew they could be that rough.
Which meant that was Hermione's hand inching its way up his leg, moving slowly but not all that slowly. Another inch or two and she would -- she was going to --
He actually moaned out loud when she began to stroke his cock through his trousers, and she made a little sound, as though it felt good to her, too.
"Mm," Ron said, and Harry opened his eyes to see Ron staring avidly down at Hermione's hand on him. "Let me help you." He undid Harry's trousers at top speed and lifted up the elastic of his pants, and oh, my god, she was going to --
She did. Her hand was on his naked cock, Hermione's hand with the short pink fingernails and the permanent ink stain on the middle finger, was stroking and squeezing him, and it felt incredible, it was impossible, he was going to --
Ron kissed him once, fast and sloppy, and his voice was gritty when he said, "Go ahead, Harry, if you want to."
He had no idea if he wanted to or not, but he was not going to be able to stop. He couldn't keep his hips from moving, or his voice from crying out, and he couldn't stop coming, not to save his life.
"Wow," Ron breathed. "I never watched anybody else do it. It's amazing." Harry felt his face turn hot, but before he could get too embarrassed, Ron had leaned down to kiss him again, slow and sloppy this time. Hermione was panting in his ear, and he realized with a guilty start that he'd got off, but they hadn't. Feeling nervous and self-conscious, he began undoing Ron's jeans.
Hermione gave an impatient little snort. "Boys," she said, and he looked up to see her rolling her eyes. "Slow down, will you? It's not a speed competition."
"Girls," Ron said, giving Harry's hand a shove. "Just because they can wait all day, they think everybody ought to. Oh, yeah," he said, eyes falling shut as Harry reached inside his pants. "I want what Harry just got."
Ron's cock was incredibly hot and incredibly smooth. Big, too, but then Ron was bigger than Harry all over, so that shouldn't have been any surprise. God, if it was always proportional to body size, he wondered what Charlie was hiding.
"Stop messing about," Ron said irritably. "Don't tell me you don't know how to do it, because I've heard you."
"Ron!" Hermione sounded outraged, but it made Harry grin. He'd heard Ron, too; it was hard to avoid when your beds were two feet apart.
"Least I don't grunt," Harry said, and imitated the noise Ron sometimes made. Ron snickered, which made it impossible to feel too tense. It was just like an ordinary day in the common room, except that his hand was in Ron's pants. "Let me get behind you, Ron. This angle's all wrong." He clambered over Ron on the couch and grinned at Hermione over Ron's shoulder. Ron settled back against him, sighing as Harry wrapped his hand around his cock again.
"You two look really amazing." Hermione's voice was husky. She was unbuttoning Ron's shirt, and Harry went on stroking him slowly, ignoring all Ron's efforts to speed him up, while he watched Hermione baring his chest. It was strange, and strangely exciting, to see his best friend like this, clothes pulled back to bare his skin from throat to groin, chest rising and falling.
"Come on," he panted. "Are you going to do something, or are you just going to play with me all day?"
"He always this impatient?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Usually he's all slow and considerate," she said, running her hands over his chest. "You're a bad influence, Harry." She gave one nipple an experimental pinch. "When he did this to you --"
Ron's cock jumped in Harry's hand. "He likes it," he said. "Try it a little harder."
"Really? Doesn't it hurt?" She pinched a little harder. Ron's cock twitched again, and he let out a little groan.
She jerked her hand away, but he growled, "More!" and she came back with both hands.
"Yeah," Harry said, watching her. Hermione had pretty hands, pale and small, and what she was doing to Ron must feel as good as it looked. "Like that. He likes it."
"How can you tell?"
Harry swapped hands, stroking Ron's cock with his left hand while he raised his right, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together. "Makes him wet."
Ron grunted. "Stop talking about me 's if I'm not here." But his cock had twitched again at Harry's words.
"Plus it moves when he likes someth -- oh, god," because Hermione had leaned forward to suck Harry's slick fingers into her mouth. She closed her eyes, and Harry was bouncing back even faster than he usually did.
Ron noticed and scooted his hips back, disrupting Harry's stroke until Harry could bring down his right hand, still wet from Hermione's mouth. Harry squirmed with mixed pleasure and discomfort as Ron's jeans rubbed against his still-sensitive cock, and Ron laughed.
"What?" Hermione said.
"He's hard again already."
"Hey!" Harry felt his face get hot.
"See how you like it, people telling all your secrets." Ron brought his hand down to cover Harry's smaller one, which had slowed down, then came up to Hermione's face. "Kiss me while he does it," he said, catching his breath as Harry continued the rhythm he had started.
"Does what?" Hermione teased, but she kissed him before he could answer. Her arms went round Ron and then round Harry, combing through his hair. They looked as if they could kiss forever.
It wasn't long before Ron's hips began to jerk, drawing Harry into a still faster rhythm. Harry remembered lying in bed, listening to Ron's breathing speed up -- remembered one guilty, painfully hot session when he'd matched Ron's rhythm stroke for stroke, all in a terror that Ron would finish first and hear him, and been so turned on that he'd had to do it again before he could sleep.
Ron pulled his mouth free of Hermione's to breathe in a great gasp of air. "Ohh," she said, "is he going to --"
"Yeah," Harry said. Hermione pulled back a little, and Ron writhed in mixed arousal and distress: "No, don't, don't look --" But both of them were watching when he striped Hermione's blouse and Harry's hand and his own chest, and Harry leaned forward and gave Hermione a fast hard kiss over his shoulder, and then nudged Ron's head around to give him a long slow one.
After a moment, Hermione pressed forward, and Harry felt Ron's other arm come around her, and he released Ron's mouth so they could all cling to each other and breathe together.
By the time Ron had stopped panting, Harry was entirely hard again, and if Hermione'd been a boy she'd have been hurting. Harry looked at her where she lay with her head against Ron's shoulder. She looked turned on, but not uncomfortable.
He lifted her hair in his hands, and she smiled up at him over Ron's shoulder.
"Seems kind of rude we didn't take care of you first," Harry said.
"I was just thinking this might be a solution to the boy-girl speed problem," she said.
Ron snorted. "I can just imagine how that would go over in the Ask Mistress Matchmaker column. 'One boy doesn't have enough stamina for you? Try two!' "
"It's not a question of stamina," Hermione said. "It just works differently for girls, that's all. Though Cytherea Comus' Guide to Magical Sex insists that the pace evens out by the fifth or sixth decade." She seemed to realize she'd been lecturing, and ducked her head. "Until then, I like the idea of the two-boys solution."
"Right, and when we're in our sixth decade, we can add another girl, just for balance," Ron said hopefully. Hermione rolled her eyes. "Well, it's only fair."
"What do you want to do next, Hermione?" Harry asked. The longer they talked, the stranger all this got.
Hermione looked them both over with the same calculating look she got when she was assembling potion ingredients. "Hm," she said. "I think we ought to take off our clothes. After that, though --"
"Harry's ready for action again," Ron said. "He could do the honors."
"Hey," Harry said, "stop talking about me as though --" Then Ron's words caught up with him. "Could I?"
Ron and Hermione exchanged an amused glance. "No, Harry, you can look but not touch," Hermione said. "Of course you can. I want you to."
"Oh," Harry said, and then he said it again when Hermione stood up and toed off her loafers. Ron made no move to join her as she pulled her shirt over her head, just grinned back at Harry over his shoulder. Harry swallowed as she stopped out of her skirt and stood there in her white underthings. Even the fact that she had her hands on her hips was sexy, because it was so very Hermione.
"Ron," she said in a warning tone, and Ron sat forward and unbuttoned his cuffs.
"Here, Harry, let me help you," she said in a softer voice, catching his hands and pulling him to stand up. "Honestly, you're as bad as Ron. You'd think neither of you had ever seen a bra before. -- You have seen a bra before, haven't you?" she added, sounding concerned.
"Yeah," he said, kicking off his shoes. "But not yours."
She smiled and stepped into his arms to kiss him, and the feeling of her bare skin under his hands made it hard to breathe for a moment.
He jumped when Ron's arms came around him from behind. "Don't mind me," he said. "Just trying to keep things moving." He rested his chin on Harry's shoulder and began unbuttoning Harry's shirt. When he reached the bottom, Hermione pushed it off Harry's shoulders while Ron went on to undo Harry's trousers, giving him a thorough stroking in the process. Hermione stepped back far enough to watch, eyes bright, while Harry leaned back on Ron's bare chest and panted.
"C'mon, Hermione, you've seen this show before," Ron said. His cock, where it nestled in the small of Harry's back, was showing a definite interest in the proceedings.
"Hm." She looked around the room critically. "Harry, why don't you sit in that armchair? I think it's wide enough."
For what? Harry wanted to ask, but just then Hermione reached up behind herself and unhooked the bra, and he found he didn't quite have enough breath for questions. He stared as she took her knickers off, as Ron bent to kiss her, as he swept his hands down her ribs to her hips. She stepped out of his arms with a smile and turned, giving Harry his first good look at her naked, before she folded him up in her arms and kissed him in turn.
With difficulty, he found his voice. "Uh, Hermione -- I've got a Vas Obstruere on, but can you do a contraceptive charm? Just in case?" Bill Weasley had told him that contraceptives used to be covered in Charms class, but of course such things were now deemed inappropriate for children. But if anybody would have contraband knowledge,it would be Hermione, right?
"I'd be in Eloise's shoes already if I couldn't, Harry," she said.
"Don't worry," Ron added. "If she can block Weasley sperm, she can block anybody's."
"OK," Harry said, and he went to sit in the armchair. "How do you want to do this?" He'd never had sex sitting in a chair -- it had never occurred to him to try it any way but lying down -- but of course Hermione knew the better way to do just about everything.
And a moment later he was ready to applaud, because she knelt over his lap and sank down onto his cock, a look of bliss on her face.
"Ohh," he said, and she looked at him with that same "I knew I was right" smile she always had, and he pulled her head down and kissed her.
He couldn't move much in that position, pinned down by all her weight in his lap, but it was just as well, since he needed a minute to get himself under control. Inside Hermione! Her hair falling down around his face, smelling so sweet and familiar -- her thighs flexing under his hands as she raised and lowered herself on him, just the smallest movements, enough to feel good, but not enough to make him come before he was ready.
He lost track of how long they sat, kissing and rocking gently. But at last he heard Ron's voice, a little hoarser than usual: "Turn around, Hermione, so we can touch you properly."
Harry couldn't stop himself from uttering a wordless protest when he slipped out of her, but Ron said, "Don't worry, Harry, you'll like this," and then she took him inside her again -- facing outwards, now, knees spread as wide as the arms of the chair would allow.
Her hair was in his face now, and he gathered it up and pushed it forward over one shoulder. Ron had pulled up a pouf and was kneeling on it to kiss her, making hungry noises into her mouth. Harry reached around to touch her breasts and found Ron's hands already there, and Ron broke the kiss with a laugh and said, "This spot's taken, Harry, but you might find a good one lower down."
He ran his fingertips down Hermione's soft belly, which quivered a little -- if she was ticklish, she'd certainly done a good job of hiding it from them over the years. Not that he blamed her.
He kept exploring. When his fingertips touched hair for the first time, his hips pushed forward suddenly, and she tensed and did something that made Ron gasp. It was as if they were all one body now, with all their reactions combined, so that whatever excited one of them would excite them all.
Breathing hard, he ran his fingers further down, to where her curls were wet -- and further, to where he could feel the base of his own cock, though he didn't dare touch himself very much. Instead, he used one hand to hold her open while the other explored her slick inner folds, found her hard little clit in its sheath of soft skin and rubbed it gently.
She was making a little "Nnh" noise now, head thrown back against Harry's shoulder, and Harry couldn't see Ron at all -- he probably had his mouth on her breasts, and Harry was momentarily paralyzed with the desire to do everything and see everything and feel everything all at once.
Then Hermione started moving her hips in little circles, and that snapped him back into the present moment. He'd better hurry, or he was going to come before he could do anything for her.
"Ron," he said, his own voice hardly recognizable in his ears. "What does she like? How do I make her come?"
"God!" Hermione said, rocking faster against him. Ron's disheveled red head appeared over her shoulder, then his grinning face and his kiss-swollen lips.
Then Harry felt Ron's hand come over his, Ron's thumb molding over his forefinger and showing him how to move that soft fold of skin -- the tiny sweep up from the base, the little flicker over the tip, over and over. "Yeah," Ron said hoarsely, "like that. She's close -- you can go a little faster."
Harry had figured that out himself from Hermione's high-pitched whimpers and restless hips. Ron watched them for a moment longer, then ducked his head again, and Hermione cried out, and under his fingers, around his cock, he felt her clench and flutter as she came.
It would have been easy to follow her, but he held on, wanting to enjoy every tremble. At last she fell still, panting, and sighed. "God."
"You were amazing," he whispered, kissing her ear and the side of her face. He felt Ron's arms come around them both, and Ron leaned past Hermione to kiss him -- hotly, desperately, and then more gently. It went on for quite a long time.
At last Ron drew back, grinning, and said, "You ready for another, Hermione?"
She took a fast breath and Harry felt her flutter around him again. "Yes," she sighed.
Ron kissed her and then vanished. After a while Harry heard the pouf roll back and realized Ron must be kissing his way down Hermione's body, and a moment later, Ron was nuzzling at Harry's hands, licking his wet fingers.
"Hold her open for me," he said, making Harry shudder, and Hermione let out a little whine, and then her hips started to move again and Harry knew Ron must be licking her.
She loved it. She writhed against him, panting and gasping. "Wish I could see him do that to you," Harry panted in her ear. "Wish I was the one doing it -- wish he was doing it to me --"
"God!" she cried, moving so fast on his lap that every second he worried he'd slip out.
He could feel Ron's hand stroking everywhere his mouth wasn't touching, and then Ron's fingers were stroking along the base of his cock, cupping and stroking his balls --
"Don't!" he said. "God, don't, Ron, I'll come --" and just then Hermione convulsed around him again and Harry gave in and emptied himself inside her, sinking his teeth into her shoulder.
When he'd caught his breath, Hermione was still panting in his lap, small ripples still caressing him. He tried to see Ron over her shoulder, and when he couldn't manage that, he looked around her. Ron was kneeling on the floor, hands clenched into fists, face on her thigh, panting.
Harry watched as Hermione's little hand stroked his hair, raised his face, rubbed over his wet mouth. Then Hermione climbed off Harry's lap and slid to the floor, and Ron pushed her onto her back and slid into her, letting out a long, low groan.
He must have come instantly. He didn't thrust at all, just lay shuddering in her arms while she stroked his back and kissed him.
After a moment, Ron's hand came up blindly, groped about for a bit, landed on Harry's knee, and tugged. Harry got down from the chair and lay down behind Hermione, and Ron's long arm wrapped tightly around them both.
For a long time he lay there beside them, lazily kissing first one and then the other.
"My god," Hermione said. "That was amazing."
"Yeah," Harry sighed.
Hermione raised her arms above her head to stretch, making a squeaky noise. The movement lifted her ribcage, and Harry suddenly realized that he was allowed to look at her breasts now. They were very nice breasts.
Ron was grinning at him as though he knew what Harry was thinking. He looked pretty good naked, too.
When Hermione lowered her hands, she had the newspaper in them. "Hey," Ron said. "What are you carrying the Prophet around for, anyway?"
"Oh, god." Harry closed his eyes. "There's this awful cover story -- " He buried his face in Hermione's neck, and she patted him on the back of the head as Ron turned the pages over.
"Boy Who Lived Marriage Pool Shocker!" Ron read. "Oddsmakers stymied by tryst with Muggle-born Hufflepuff!"
"Oh, dear," Hermione said. "I wondered why Hannah looked so upset at breakfast."
"That's a pretty good photo, though," Ron said. "Look, Hermione, you're favored at five to one."
Hermione supported her head on one hand and reached the other one out for the paper. Harry rolled over on his back and kept his eyes shut. "You're on there, too," she said to Ron, "but it's really long odds. 'Puddlemere heartthrob Oliver Wood stunned the world when he set up a two-daddy household with Keeper Briareus Drake and their adopted twins. Oddsmakers consider such an outcome unlikely, as Potter has never shown any inclination for wandplay' -- shows how much they know -- 'but Fortunato Meander is offering five hundred to one on an early alliance with longtime pal Ron Weasley.' "
Ron began to laugh. "I'll get the twins to put a Galleon or two on the three of us. We'll make millions." He took the paper out of Hermione's hand. "Look, the Home & Hearth section is all about homemade soup. Says here long simmering's the secret." He tossed the section away and lay back with his arm under his head and the sports section propped on his bare chest.
Well, that had been a little less painful than he'd expected, Harry thought as the Prophet's top oddsmaker winked at him from the crumpled page. Maybe he could manage to get through this week after all.
"What was all this about Rome, then, Hermione?" he asked. When there was no answer, he turned and saw that she'd fallen asleep, one hand under her head and the other loosely curled on her belly.
Ron looked over the top of the European Quidditch report. "And girls complain about boys passing out after." His hands were gentle as he lifted her head to slip his folded jumper underneath. "She was up all night revising."
"She doesn't take care of herself," Harry said.
"No," Ron said fondly, "she doesn't."
When Harry could tear his eyes away from the rare and marvelous spectacle of a naked sleeping girl -- with her hair all in disarray and a light suck mark on the lower curve of her left breast -- he found Ron regarding him over Hermione's body with another of his chess-playing looks. After a moment, Ron raised his big, freckled hand from Hermione's belly, where it had been following the rise and fall of her sleeping breath, and reached over her to touch Harry's cheek.
Harry turned his face into the touch, eyes falling shut in an embarrassing upwelling of relief and gratitude. He pressed his lips to Ron's palm, and Ron's fingers tightened.
When Ron put his hand back on Hermione's belly, Harry's hand followed, and Ron intertwined their fingers.
"All right, Harry?"
Harry laid his head down on the corner of Ron's jumper and smiled. "Yeah," he said.
When they stepped out of here, likely as not the first thing they'd see was Malfoy's back as he ran off to report them to the Headmistress for breaking curfew. At dinner the ghosts would peer at them from behind the invisible Exor-Siding that had been put up to prevent them from traumatizing the children, and Luna Lovegood's latest article in the Quibbler would be riddled with blank spaces left by the Censorround spell, and they'd have one last study session proctored by Professor Quiverly-Pupp before sitting their last two N.E.W.T.s, and the Sunflower Trio would sing at the Leaving Ball because the Weird Sisters were unwholesome for young people ...
And after that, they'd be free.