All things considered, what was supposed to be a club looked like an old factory, which meant it blended in perfectly with its surroundings. As did the steady stream of people entering the doors. Harry could feel the illusions and glamours saturating the air. Nothing here was what it appeared to be, and it seemed like everyone was very interested in keeping it that way. Harry wasn't sure why all the secrecy was needed, if everyone was just going to go dancing. Maybe the owners liked to pretend they were some sort of highly-exclusive organization.
"What am I doing here, Ron?" Harry asked in a whisper.
"You're here because," Ron pressed his hands together, "well, because She invited you here. Because She wants to talk to you about something."
Harry had learned to listen for the Capital Letters whenever Ron talked about Hermione. It was an open secret between the three of them (and Ginny, who was always more perceptive than Ron was willing to give her credit for) that Hermione's interest in Ron went beyond the kisses and discreet shagging they had been engaged in since the unexpected camping trips of their seventh year. Harry wasn't sure what Hermione saw in Ron, but since neither of them would actually admit to what their relationship status was, Harry never had the opportunity to ask. But the signs were there - Ron always had an ear out for where Hermione was when they were together, and there was more than one time where Ron had ditched Harry when Hermione rang.
Harry had his suspicions about what kind of place they were going to, but there wasn't any sort of name or advertisement for it - not even the kind that only magical people could see.
"Should we go inside? I'm getting cold." Harry blew on his hands a little to be more convincing.
"Can't," Ron said sheepishly. "She's not here yet."
A small pop announced the arrival of Hermione in a red dress that reminded Harry of an earlier Yule Ball, if Hermione had been six inches taller, two cup sizes larger, and wanting to wear a lot less fabric. "Harry!" she beamed, and gave him an enthusiastic hug. "I'm so glad you came."
"This is a...new look for you," Harry said, reddening slightly. He had seen Hermione on a regular basis at the Ministry, but she tended to wear casual clothes when advocating for the causes she volunteered for. He'd forgotten that when she wanted to be, Hermione was sexy.
"Oh," Hermione said, smiling at him brightly. "I usually reserve this for special occasions. I'm so glad you like it. Ronald," she said, tone crispening significantly, "go in and get our space ready."
"Yes, M--" Ron's acknowledgement stopped in his throat on a slight frown from Hermione, and he hurried off.
"Hermione, what's--" Hermione stopped Harry's question with a finger on his lips.
"Don't ask what you don't want to know," she said. Her voice was friendly, but her eyes told Harry that she wasn't making a suggestion. She gave Harry a slight push in the back toward the entrance. Confused, Harry followed her lead inside.
The inside of the club held luxuries the outside never hinted at. Harry tried not to stare at the selection of furniture on display, with eye hooks seemingly everywhere, including in some of the posts holding up the building. Everywhere he looked, it seemed like there were people removing clothes, adding restraints, or getting situated into something that looked like it was going to be painful. Harry watched as rolls of cling wrap darted around a naked woman, pinning her arms and creating a transparent mummification. Elsewhere, a man danced and made muffled shouts as tiny lightning bolts jumped from another man's wand to the metal balls attached to his testicles. In staring so long at everything, Harry realized he had no idea where he was going, and that he couldn't see Hermione any more.
"Overwhelming, isn't it?" Ron said, startling Harry and disrupting his growing sense of being very out of place here. "She thought you might want some privacy to process all of it, being your first time and all." Ron's appearance, thankfully, hadn't changed in the short time Harry had been staring.
Focusing on the one thing that was familiar, Harry let Ron lead him to one of the makeshift-looking rooms off to the side of the main floor. Like the portable rooms they had kept at the Quidditch World Cup, the space was much bigger on the inside, furnished well and with a kitchen and toilet adjacent to the main room, which was taken up by a rather large bed. Still shaken by what he had already seen, Harry collapsed in a surprisingly comfortable nearby chair.
"What was all that?" Harry looked at Ron.
"Playtime," Ron replied, avoiding Harry's gaze. "Some of the people here really get off on, well, anything. It's a lot to take in for your first time."
"Ronald," came Hermione's voice from the door, "what are you doing?"
Harry saw Ron's expression for a short second before he spun around and kneeled at the foot of the bed, hands clasped in front of him. He had seen Ron afraid before, when they were fighting Death Eaters, but this, this was different than what they had experienced when they were running for their lives. What had Hermione done to him to make him look like he was about to have both the worst and the best experience of his life? Was he going to need to help get Ron away from her? Harry casually checked to make sure his wand was still where he could easily get to it. Even among friends, some habits never really went away.
"Preparing, Miss--" Ron started.
"Ronald," she interrupted. "What have I told you about address?"
"Sorry, M--Hermione," Ron stammered. "I am not to address you by your title in the presence of vanilla people."
"That's right," Hermione nodded, most of the force in her voice gone. Her wand was in her hand, changing the red dress she had arrived in to black, and adding a similarly black pair of thigh-high boots to complete her outfit. Ron's clothes turned a similar black as he kneeled, and a leather collar attached itself to his neck, firmly locking in place.
"Vanilla?" Harry asked from the chair. Hermione turned to him, a look of confusion on her face. Then, as if making a decision, she flicked her hand, transforming her wand into a riding crop that she laid on the bed in front of Ron. Ron whimpered.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Ron's apologies came quickly, without stopping for breath until Hermione put a finger on his lips.
"Oscura," she said. "Silencio." Harry watched as a black cloud settled itself in front of Ron's eyes and lips.
Harry grabbed his wand and brought it out. Something was going terribly wrong. Maybe Hermione was under an Imperious Curse, or someone had Polyjuiced themselves to look like her. He thought they had gotten all the Death Eaters, but there was no reason on earth that he could think of as to why Hermione was getting ready to torture Ron. There was clearly Dark Magic about, and he had let himself be led into a trap. Or maybe he was staring at a boggart. But they tended to like closets and drawers, not beds. When whatever looked like Hermione turned to Harry, her eyes widened and she backed away from Ron. "Harry," she said, all trace of venom gone in her voice, "what are you doing?"
"You're not hurting my friend, whatever you are," he said, keeping the wand trained on her.
"Harry James Potter," she said, reminding him very strongly of both Molly and Ginny when they were scolding someone, "why would I want to hurt Ronald? After all we went through together? And in front of you?"
Harry couldn't find an answer, but his wand didn't move.
After a few moments of tense silence, a realization dawned on Hermione. It was subtle, but Harry saw the shift in her body language as she changed targets for her scolding. Hay recognized that Hermione was about to go into lecture mode, which meant Ron was going to get an earful about this situation. Having been on the receiving end of plenty of Hermione's lectures, Harry knew that while it was possible a double could have known about Hermione's tendency to talk, it wasn't nearly as likely they would have known to also make her eye twitch just slightly enough to convey how upset she was at that point. Harry relaxed his grip on his end just a little.
"Vox," Hermione said, and the cloud covering Ron's mouth dissipated. "Ronald, give me a color, please."
"Green, Hermione," he answered immediately.
"What does that mean?" Harry asked. "And if you don't mind, I'd like to hear it from him."
"I'm fine, Harry. Scared out of my wits about how Hermione is going to punish me, but I'm okay, honest." Ron smiled. "She wouldn't hurt me if I wasn't okay with it."
"And if you weren't?"
"Different color," Hermione said. "Or he can use his safeword. Which is?"
"Molly Weasley," Ron provided immediately. Several things Harry had been wondering about over the last few months clicked into place with that piece of information. Harry knew that Ron loved his family, but he had been mentioning Molly a lot in conversations with Hermione. And always by name, instead of as Mum. Harry had thought it weird at the time, but now he understood that it had been a code word between them to stop whatever they had been doing.
"You should know about all this already, Harry. And what a vanilla person is, and what kind of things you might be seeing here tonight," Hermione said. "Ronald was supposed to be telling you about us, and all of these things. From your confusion, I'm guessing he hasn't told you anything, has he?"
At Harry's hesitant nod, Hermione turned on Ron, silencing him before his apologies could begin again, snatched up the crop, letting it whistle by his ear. Ron flinched after realizing what had happened, but resumed his position afterward. Harry kept his wand ready for any signs of trouble, but confusion was rapidly taking the place of worry.
"Wait," Harry said, hoping to forestall the inevitable conclusion. "What am I doing here?"
Hermione sighed, a mix of frustration and concern. "If Ronald had been doing his job, he would have told you beforehand. Do you remember when we were keeping Salazar Slytherin's locket before finding the way to destroy the horcrux in it?" At Harry's nod, she continued. "Do you remember what Ron saw in the locket?"
"Us, together. Naked, and in a relationship where we made fun of him." Harry shuddered at the memory of how the locket had made him feel while he had been wearing it.
"Well..." Hermione blushed a little bit and turned away from him, providing a very cute contrast with her stern demeanor beforehand. "The locket shows the worst thing that it can, but, well, it only shows things that have truth in them."
"Truth? So you..." Harry was more than ready to just call confusion the emotion of the day and wait for tomorrow.
"Yes, Harry," Hermione said, and turned back toward him, closing the distance between them. "I've had feelings for both you and Ronald since our first year at Hogwarts." Hermione smiled at Harry and lightly tapped his hand with the crop's handle. "Ronald and I have been talking for a while now, and we wanted to show you everything about our lives, including this. No secrets between us."
"Does Ginny know about this?" Harry asked, realizing what this sort of situation would look like to her.
A peal of laughter in front of him brought Harry's attention to his wand. "Of course Ginny knows," her voice said from the tip of his wand. "The only reason you are there at all is because I said you could. I'd be there myself, but there's a mandatory Harpies practice tonight."
"I don't understand," Harry said, letting his inner confusion manifest. "Ginny and I aren't like this."
Another wave of laughter erupted from his wand. "Of course not, Harry Potter," Ginny's voice mocked, "you're perfectly normal when you ask me to have sex with you while I'm still in my Seeker's uniform. Or all the other times when you need to feel like you have something you can control in your life. But for you, it's just normal. Oop, break time is over. Be nice to him, Hermione, okay?"
"I will, Ginny." Hermione smiled at Harry again. "There's no reason to be ashamed of being kinky, Harry. Plenty of witches, wizards, and Muggles are. Whatever role they take, it helps them find fulfilment in their lives."
"Does Ginny want to do to me what you're doing to Ron?" Harry was still trying to process everything he had just heard, including the revelation that everyone knew what was happening except him. He wanted to blame Ron, too, but he understood why his best mate might have been embarrassed to admit he enjoyed getting beat. The twins would have never let him live it down.
"That's between you and Ginny, Harry. You should be more focused on what I want to do to you." Hermione took his hands in hers, letting him feel the leather of the crop. "Because I have wanted to do this with you and with Ronald for a very long time."
"And if I don't want to do it with you?" Harry said, swallowing nervously.
"Then you can watch, if you want to. Or we can Apparate you back home. You don't have to do anything you don't want to, Harry. Consent is paramount here."
Hermione's earnestness convinced Harry of the truth of what she was saying. He had been through war and hell with both of them. He trusted them not to hurt him or lie to him about important things. At the very least, he was convinced it was really them and not something else that looked like them.
"What would I do?" he said.
Hermione almost squeaked with delight. "I think, for the moment, that you would take on a bottoming role to me. It would give you an idea of what you might experience, and you wouldn't stop me every moment with questions. All you would have to do, Harry, is what I tell you."
Harry considered her offer. Going into the unknown with them wasn't scary. The idea of letting go and letting his guard down enough to obey stirred a lingering nightmare of his own past, of the times when he hadn't had a choice. He shivered.
Hermione hugged him. "You're safe here," she said into his ear. "You can stop any time. Green if you want to continue, yellow if we need to talk, red if we need to stop. Say safeword if you want to stop everything immediately. Okay?"
Harry nodded. He trusted her.
"Then, Harry, take off your clothes and kneel next to Ronald."
Harry hesitated. He and Ron had shared showers after practice and games, but Hermione had always been scrupulous around him when there was a chance he might see something on her. Now she was telling him that she wanted to see everything he had. He hesitantly took his shirt off and put it on the chair.
"Still playing in the weekend Quidditch league, I see," Hermione said, eyeing him up and down. "You've got nothing to be ashamed of, Harry. Off with the rest."
Hermione still fancied him. That was a relief. Harry always felt a little self-conscious about showing the small set of scars he had collected over the years of fighting and working. Harry slowly undid his trousers and let them fall to the floor, stepping out of them. He smiled weakly at Hermione, looking for another compliment.
"All of it," she said, looking bored at how long he was taking. "And put them on the chair."
Harry blushed. He could still step away from all of this. They wouldn't think any less of him if he did. But stepping away felt like embracing cowardice and ignorance, and even though he had long since graduated Hogwarts, he still felt the pull of Gryffindor virtues. And Hermione has all given him a way out if he needed it. He wasn't safe...but he did trust them
Making his decision, he pulled off the rest of his clothes, folded them all on the chair cushion, and went to kneel next to Ron.
After Harry had done so, he saw Hermione's stance shift back toward what he had seen when she first came in. Noticing his stare, she pointed at Ron with her crop.
"Don't look at me, Harry. Look at Ronald. Ronald has not been doing what he was supposed to be doing. He's going to have to be punished. Ronald, do you need to be punished?"
"Ronald, do you want to be punished?"
A slight hesitation, one Harry recognized as like his own hesitation just a little earlier, before Ron gave another nod.
Hermione guided Ron onto the bed, laying him face down, arms above his head, then flicked her wand-crop to remove Ron's pants, giving Harry a view of his best friend that he hadn't seen since the locker rooms at Hogwarts. She tapped his ass gently with the crop
Ron jumped slightly, and then shivered in anticipation.
Harry turned red and looked away from what was developing in front of him. "I still have trouble thinking of you this way," Harry stammered.
"Harry, it's nothing you haven't seen before," Hermione pointed out.
She was right about that. Ron had nearly burst through his door that day, waving the calendar so rapidly that Harry hadn't been able to see anything, shouting about something he saw at the newsagent's. Once Ron calmed down enough to put a few words together into a sentence, Harry was able to figure out what had happened.
Harry had thumbed through a few months, taking note of Miss April (Katie Bell with other Quidditch implements), Miss July (the Patil twins), Miss September (Ginny, much to Ron's chagrin), and Miss October (Luna, re-enacting Lady Godiva using a thestral for the horse).
Harry had stopped and stared for a good long time at Miss November. Hermione, surrounded by her books, was wearing nothing more than a pair of glasses and a look of concentration, before relaxing into a smile. Harry suspected Hermione had performed some sort of wandless magic art that point, because he knew he wasn't supposed to get hard for his mate's girlfriend, but seeing Hermione's body made his own desire come too close for comfort.
Harry had the good sense not to give Ron too much grief about his girlfriend being a Page Three girl, since he was in the same boat, but he made sure Ron told him where the newsagent was so that he could get his own copy for the privacy of his own flat.
Everyone who had participated said it was Luna's idea. She had seen a Muggle movie about a group of older women who had taken off their clothes as a fundraiser and thought it would be a great idea to do the same and raise money for the Widows and Orphans of Hogwarts Fund.
A sharp snap of leather on flesh returned Harry to the present. Where Hermione had slapped Ron's ass was bright red and a perfect impression of the crop.
Ron nearly jumped off the bed. A highly inappropriate giggle formed, slipped out a little, and then died as Hermione slapped him again.
"You made me do your share of the work with Harry," she snapped, bringing the crop down on Ron's other cheek.
"I'm sorry, Miss," Ron apologized. While Harry had been daydreaming, Hermione had apparently restored Ron's voice.
"You were not in your proper position when I arrived," Hermione continued, striking his left shoulder blade.
Ron hissed in pain, arching his back, instinctively trying to get away from Hermione, but consciously returning himself to the place she had put him.
Harry wasn't sure whether Ron was enjoying himself or not. From what he could see, Hermione was hurting him pretty badly, and yet Ron kept coming back for more.
"I'm sorry, Miss," Ron said again.
"You keep addressing me improperly ," she snarled, swatting him twice with the crop.
"Yellow, yellow," Ron yelped. "Too much."
"Oh?" she said, not missing a beat. "Do you think that you are done?"
Ron shook his head, still processing the last two hits.
"What would you like?" she said, slightly more gently.
"Mercy," Ron gasped, breathing heavily.
"Ronald," Hermione said, "you have earned every one of these strokes." Harry recognized that Hermione wasn't going to budge on the matter. Ron had asked to talk and for mercy, but it didn't look like any was coming.
"But," Hermione said, switching back to a softer tone, "I suppose I can space them out more."
Ron nodded in relief, right before Hermione pinched one of the spots she had just smacked. Ron cried out from the pain.
"Don't you go nonverbal on me, Ronald," she told him, still pinching. "When I want your silence, I will have it. If you need a reminder to talk..."
"No, Hermione!" Ron nearly shouted.
Hermione let go of Ron, a clear and genuine smile on her face. "You do remember how to address me properly, Ronald. Is that so difficult?"
"No, Hermione," Ron said between very deep breaths.
Harry realized that "we need to talk" could take on many different forms, depending on the context.
True to her word, though, Hermione took more time in between hitting Ron with the crop. Watching her work, Harry could feel his cock getting hard. He wasn't sure he would like what she was doing, but there was something about the chemistry on display that was clearly erotic.
After a few more strikes, Hermione lit up with a clever look. "Oh, I know," she drawled, as if she had just come up with a brilliant idea, "we'll let Harry decide what you get for punishment."
Of course Hermione would have planned for this, Harry thought. Hermione had always had a plan before. This wasn't any different.
"Harry, come here." Hermione's eyes flicked downward, confirming that both he and Ron were in a similar state of arousal. She grabbed him by the cock (carefully, if not gently) to lead him to the other side of the bed. Harry buckled a bit at her touch, realizing how sensitive he was. Hermione had brought him close to getting off without actually touching him. Harry wished for her to stroke him some, to release some of the pressure that had built by watching her, but her grip lacked any sort of desire in it. Hermione would not be providing him any release that way. Harry reddened with embarrassment with how easily Hermione had him wrapped around her finger. He had fantasized about her early on at Hogwarts, but he'd thought those days were long past. That calendar had awoken feelings for more than just Ginny, he realized.
"Stand here," she said, giving him a little smirk.
Harry stood where she indicated, butterflies starting to form in his stomach.
"I'm going to use my implements on you. If it's something you like, I'll give you more. If it's something you don't like, Ronald will get it instead. What do you think, Harry?"
Harry hesitated, worried he was potentially condemning Ron to a horrible fate if he accepted. Sensing his worry, Hermione smiled at him and leaned into him.
"Ronald is going to be okay," she stage whispered in his ear. "Last time he was here, he took four witches with whips and begged for more."
Harry's brain fizzled at the visual image, replacing his thoughts of Hermione with something entirely different as Ron laughed from the bed. "That was so much fun," he said.
Harry was convinced. "I'm ready," he told Hermione.
Hermione almost giggled in happiness. "Let's start you with something soft," she said. "Don't look back. I want you to go by feel, not by what something looks like, okay?"
Harry watched Hermione move out of his vision, turning his head unconsciously to follow her, before she reached up and moved his head back to facing forward.
Harry felt Hermione's hands brushing over his back, lingering over his scars for a bit before moving southward to squeeze and cup his ass. If there had been any desire in it, Harry would have leaned into it more, but Hermione's hands seemed more interested in mapping terrain and looking for trouble spots than in trying to keep him aroused.
"Harry," she said, "do you want to be blinkered? For some people, not being able to see helps them focus more on the sensations."
Harry shook his head. He'd had more than enough of being in a place where he couldn't see and couldn't control whether there was light or not.
"Harry," Hermione said at his ear, startling him, "you're going to do better if you talk to me. I'm still trying to train Ronald out of that habit, and I'd rather not have to do it with you as well."
"Yes, Hermione," Harry said, nearly tongue-tied from anticipation.
Hermione put a hand on one of his shoulders. Harry could feel her grip change as she moved away from him, until the feel of her hand disappeared entirely.
"Are you ready, Harry?"
It did not meet any definition Harry had of soft. It was heavy, leathery, and made a satisfying smack against his left shoulder as it made a rippling sound on contact. Hermione hit him again on the right shoulder, harder this time. His right shoulder burned a little, as if he had skinned it on the grass after a hard spill from his broom. It didn't feel like anything was bleeding, but Harry wasn't sure.
"That's a flogger, Harry," Hermione said. "There's not a lot of sting in it. Mostly thud. It's a great warm-up tool for anyone new. What do you think? For you or Ronald?"
"I'll keep this one, thanks." Harry smiled. As things went, the flogger wasn't too bad.
He yelped a bit when Hermione placed her next two strikes on each side of his ass, but it was a good feeling, and a lot less sharp than when Ginny smacked ass while they were having sex.
Hermione went back to his back for a bit, starting to find a rhythm with her hits, varying the locations and strengths of her flogging. Harry started to feel less pain with each hit and more of a pleasant haze. If this was what Ron felt, then Harry could understand why he liked this so much.
A blossom of pain on his back interrupted his good feelings and threatened to bring him back down to earth. Harry tried to ignore the pain and concentrate on the happy feelings, but another eruption of fire made itself known on another part of his body.
"Don't float away on me, Harry," Hermione said from his side, with another stroke of something much different than the flogger's pleasant thud. "Focus on me."
Harry tried to pay attention to Hermione, but it was difficult with all of the sensations around. As the pain replaced the pleasure he had been feeling, Harry could remember where Hermione had been hitting him, and with what. The next strike came through very clearly - the crop, on his back. Harry wondered if that was her favorite tool before the pain threatened to take over all of his senses in the same way the haze had earlier.
Then the pain was fading away again, transforming itself into nearly pure happiness. Had Hermione stopped? Harry wasn't sure.
She'd asked him a question.
"No," he stammered, hoping it was the right answer. "Give it to Ron."
Harry wasn't firm on the idea of time, so it could have been seconds or minutes before Hermione touched him again.
"Breathe, Harry," Hermione said, grasping his head with her hands.
Harry could hear Ron begging for mercy while he laughed and shouted, punctuated by weighty slaps, but it felt very far off in the distance to him.
Hermione's hands and voice was all he could muster clarity for. She was there, and she was telling him to breathe. He exhaled the breath he had been keeping in since she had started on him. Breathing in brought pain. Breathing out brought release. He could breathe.
"That's it, Harry. Breathe. Focus on me. Talk to me, Harry. What's your color, Harry?"
Hermione was leading him somewhere. A chair. He collapsed into it, unsure how he had gotten there.
He didn't feel her any more. Where was she? He tried to call out to her, but words were too much effort. He tried to stand up again, but standing meant pain. He stopped.
He started to tremble, and then shake. His body had abandoned him to panic.
Where was Hermione?
A blanket covered him, and he felt her hands securely tucking the blanket around him.
"I'm here, Harry," she said soothingly.
The blanket was warm, and it helped make the shaking less violent. She was here. Everything was okay. He exhaled again.
He woke in the chair, feeling sore up and down his back. Hermione was sitting at the foot of the bed, completely naked, with a flush in her cheeks that suggested that after Hermione had gotten done punishing Ron, she had decided to reward him. Seeing that he was awake, Hermione went to gather another blanket for herself.
"No. Stop. Please," Harry said, glad that his voice had returned to him. "You're beautiful, Hermione."
"Thank you, Harry," she said, smiling at him. "You're not bad yourself. So, when are we going to see you in a charity calendar?"
Harry laughed. "Nobody wants to see me," he said. "I remind them too much of pain and loss." There has been more than enough of that in the aftermath of what happened. Even now, some people blamed him for everything that went wrong in their lives. Harry tried to push those memories away and focus on the slowly dwindling happy feelings from Hermione's session.
Before he could pursue that line of thinking much longer, Hermione shoved a bottle of water and a bowl of almonds in his hands. "Eat. Drink. You're still floating, Harry, and I don't want to deal with you turning that into despair."
Hermione's eyes blazed at him, indicating what he thought would be a good jest was going to turn out exactly wrong.
"--Granger," he finished.
"Harry," she said firmly, "You have not earned the right to address me that way. Do not throw it around casually with others. It carries weight and implications that you cannot imagine right now. Decisions and implications that you should really talk over with Ginny before you do anything. She has a claim on you before me. At the very least, she should be informed if you want to be my bottom going forward."
"Ginny?" Harry said, between mouthfuls of water and nuts. "Why would Ginny have a claim on me? Ginny likes it when I take charge. She said so herself."
"That's because Ginny's a switch, Harry." Hermione shook her head at him. "Honestly, Harry, you're going to need to be more observant. Ginny likes to both take charge and let you take charge. You just haven't been willing to let her. Maybe now that you understand what it's like, you can ease up on the attempted control."
Before Harry could protest, Ron stirred from the bed.
"Hey, Harry. Sleep well?" he yawned.
Without waiting for an answer, Ron turned over to try and climb out of the bed, showing Harry a network of bruises, welts, scratches, and healing wounds up and down his back. Harry shuddered at what could have made all those marks.
"You look like hell, mate," Harry said.
"Thanks," Ron said, grinning. "Hermione was not happy about you passing out. She refused to touch me for an hour while she fussed over you. I eventually won her back over and she gave me what I wanted." He leaned into Hermione and kissed her passionately.
"I love you, Ronald Weasley," Hermione said, before pushing Ron back onto the bed. "But by Merlin's beard, I am going to train that disobedient streak right out of you."
For the first time since they had gotten together, Harry finally understood what they saw in each other. Ron was still thick, but he was loyal and enduring and supportive of everyone. He took pain and made it into something beautiful. He needed someone to be loyal and supportive of him in return. The marks would heal, but the love that delivered them would stay. Hermione craved control over as much as she could get, and used her smarts and her endlessly refined and practiced technique to try and gain that control. Ron provided her a channel for all of that desire and technique to flow into. They were perfect for each other.
"Why me?" It took Harry a moment to realize he'd spoken the question instead of just thinking it. He decided to forge ahead. "Since you two are such a match, what am I doing here?"
Hermione fixed him with the withering gaze she had perfected while they were in Hogwarts. She reserved that one for when she felt he was missing the truly obvious, and it never failed to inspire a flush of embarrassment in his cheeks. He looked down at the floor to avoid her eyes.
"Look at me, Harry," Hermione told him, with the same tone of voice she had used on Ron at the beginning, the one that expected obedience. Harry steeled himself and looked up.
"Harry James Potter," Hermione said, "you are here because we love you, too. Because we're your family."
"Because Ginny wants you to bottom for her, too," Ron interjected.
Harry watched the crop float up and smack Ron squarely on the back. He doubled over in pain, wheezing.
Hermione's expression hadn't changed. "As I was saying," she continued, as if Ron hadn't spoken, "you've been alone for so long, Harry. You've had so much pain and death and..." Hermione trailed off.
"We want you to stay with us. All of us." Ron hugged Harry gently, both of them wincing in pain as they tried not to hurt the other much more than they already were.
"Now," Hermione said brightly, after they separated, "which of you wants to cook breakfast for me?"
"I will, Mistress," they said in unison, and darted for the kitchen, earning them both a spanking as Hermione chastised them about proper forms of address.