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New and Familiar

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The eighth year common room was full of the sound of music and laughter. Brightly-coloured costumes sparkled under the numerous lanterns that were strung across the ceiling, glittering with enchantments that had them changing colour with each new flash of light.

Harry's merman costume was especially enticing, matched only by Ron's Veela wings. Somehow, Ron had charmed them with a glamour that mimicked Veela powers as well, making the ethereal shimmer of makeup on his cheek bones impossible to ignore. At least, that's what Harry assumed, as he found it impossible to look away.

By contrast, Harry had chosen to enhance all the harshest aspects of merfolk features. His teeth were viciously sharp, his skin pale and faintly blue, and he had enchanted his eyes to appear dark and faintly monstrous. The costume was both a way to keep potential sicophants at bay--intimidated by his haunted gaze--and a reminder to himself: he had won. He had reached inside himself and found strength in the pieces there that to others appeared only terrible and strange. With teeth like weapons and eyes of poison, he paid homage to the inner strength within him that had allowed him to fight and win.

Plus, Ron had said it looked hot.

They'd both been a little drunk at the time, brainstorming costume ideas for the end of year celebration. Harry had glamoured his face into something that felt appropriately wild, primal, and Ron had nearly spat out his drink in response. When he'd managed to breathe normally again, he'd said, with a face as red as his hair, that the glamour was "kind of hot". That had been when Harry's brain had short-circuited and he'd suggested Ron dress as a Veela.

Now, he couldn't take his eyes off the way the lights shimmered on Ron's luminescent wings, and he couldn't even blame the alcohol because he hadn't drunk any.

The song changed, and Harry made his way to the middle of the dance floor where Ron was swaying with Padma, the two of them telling increasingly terrible knock knock jokes until they were nearly falling over with laughter. His mermaid tail was charmed to hid his feet as he walked, and it looked as if he simply floated.

"Can I cut in?" Harry asked, grinning when Ron's eyes brightened and he threw his left arm wide to let Harry into their circle.

Padma slid her arm around Harry's waist, smiling at him with warm, bright eyes that showed not even a hint of the fear they'd all lived by the year before. Harry wanted to capture this moment and bottle it. He could make Patronuses for the rest of his life off the memory of that smile on his classmate's faces.

Padma started singing along to the music--some Muggle song that had recently become popular--and Harry and Ron joined in singing the only words they could remember.

"Never ever have I ever felt so low!" they sang at the top of their lungs, all three of them leaning against each other and swaying. "When you gonna take me out of this black hole?"

Ron propped his forehead above Harry's ear, and the smell of his breath wafted across Harry's face. It was free of alcohol, though you'd never think it to look at how much they were all stumbling and laughing together. They were simply drunk on happiness, on life and laughter and love for their friends.

As the song ended, Padma squeezed them both into a hug kissed them each on the cheek before leaving them on the dance floor. The lights above them dimmed, and a slower song started.

Ron's eyes flashed with warmth as he pulled Harry into an elaborate spin. A pink flush rose up his neck to meet his ears, but Harry could barely see it in the dark. He had the strangest thought that Ron might be taking advantage of the low lighting for that very reason.

"You did it, Harry," he murmured into Harry's ear.

All around them, people were dancing and singing--friends, couples, and one circle made up of about eight people attempting to tango as one.

Harry's heartbeat increased, thumping wildly in his chest at the sound of Ron's low voice against his neck.

"We did it," he corrected. "We won."

"We won," Ron agreed, and then his forehead moved to rest against Harry's, as if the simple truth of that fact had been too much to process.

Harry knew how that felt. In the background, the music rose, familiar words pushing their way into Harry's increasingly unfocused mind.

And I'd give up forever to touch you.

Ron's hands slid down Harry's shoulders, halting and slow as if he expected to be pushed away, until they landed on Harry's waist. Harry's breath caught in his throat, and his heart started up a painful rhythm.

'Cause I know that you feel me somehow.

After taking a breath for courage, Harry slowly, deliberately drew his hands up Ron's shoulders until his arms were resting on either side of Ron's neck. Heat bloomed in his cheeks, but he forced himself to look into Ron's eyes, to face what was there, whatever it meant. 

You're the closest to Heaven that I'll ever be, and I don't want to go home right now. 

Ron's lips parted in shock, and even the dark couldn't hide the flush in his cheeks. He swallowed visibly, and then a tentative smile began to appear. 

After the war was over, Harry had found that the only person who calmed him down without fail had been Ron. He'd thought it was just because Ron was his oldest, dearest friend, but then the freedom of eighth year had allowed him to examine buried things about himself that he'd never had the chance to before. Now, he thought it was because of something entirely different; just, until now, he'd thought he was alone.

Ron's eyes slid to Harry's mouth, wide and uncertain, but full of longing. The music washed over them. 

When sooner or later it's over. I just don't want to miss you tonight. 

The light bounced off Ron's shimmering wings, and Harry moved his arms tighter around Ron's neck until they were almost nose to nose. He could feel people glancing over at them, but he didn't care. He didn't care, and the war was over, and his best friend was looking at him like he'd hung the moon and the stars all at once.

It wasn't all that often in his life that Harry had been able to do exactly what he wanted when he wanted to. But he could now. So he did.

Their lips slid together, hesitant at first but growing stronger as reality sank in. Behind his closed eyes, Harry could see bright green light reflecting off the glittering scales that dusted his shoulders, drowning the two of them in a magical light that made it feel like they were breathing underwater. Ron's lips parted, and Harry followed eagerly, touching and tasting in a way that was intoxicatingly new and soul-achingly familiar.

He opened his eyes and saw the Veela glamour take over Ron's features, darkening Ron's eyes and sharpening the bones of his face until they looked haunting and inhuman. Several people gasped, whispering amongst themselves. Words like 'monstrous' and 'freaky' reached their ears, but Harry only smiled. They had done this, the two of them. They had reached deep inside themselves and turned their inner demons into strength. Ron ducked his head, sheepish and overwhelmed and beautiful. 

Harry grinned, full to bursting with happiness, and pulled Ron back in to dance.