As long as the main festivity took place everyone seemed to react rather well, but Ron had been right not to trust the peace.
Hermione was staring quietly into the flames nursing a cup of eggnog in her hands and her feet in a new pair of bright purple socks that their son Hugo knit her. They were very ugly but Hermione had still beamed all over her face when she unpacked them earlier today, crows' feet danced around a bright brown eyes. Ron and her were divorced for over a decade now but he still knew why he married her.
Hermione was beautiful, so fucking competent and her heart sometimes was even faster than her sharp wit. The years did only make her more beautiful with the first laughter lines appearing on her face and silvery stands peaking through her unruly locks. It wasn’t a lack of love that broke their marriage.
He couldn’t help but smile as he watched her from the corner of his eyes. It had been a long time since they’d been alone in a room without family or friends around. It felt a little weird to be in the living room, the epicentre the Burrow, and not having multiple family members buzzing around him.
The moment Ron’s boyfriend had left to catch the international portkey and go home to his own family in Sweden, every single member of the big family had miraculously disappeared to other parts of the house to do "something important" and left him alone with his ex-wife.
“Since when do you know you’re into men.” Hermione asked quietly and shot him a look that made his temper flare up. He clawed his hand so angry in of one of Mum’s hideous sofa cushions that the threadbare fabric started to break open under his fingertips. It wasn't fair that Hermione had the right to make him feel so guilty for bringing his boyfriend to his family for Christmas. Hermione had introduced a number of boyfriends to the Burrow during the years after the end of their marriage and he’d never reacted like this! He’d always been as polite and friendly as he could and had laughed and told bad jokes and tried to make them feel welcomed and comfortable.
For a moment he wanted to explode in her face and scream at her, but he’d learned to stifle his anger early on in his Auror training. It's not right towards Hermione too. His anger isn’t just for her. It’s for himself, for the world around him and a little bit for his family that left him alone with this mess.
He thought he’d be over the shame by now.
He was allowed to be with a person he liked.
He was allowed to share his life with them, to introduce them his his family and his friends and enjoy being with them.
He didn’t feel like that though.
Being with Fatin felt good, but his hands were still shaking when they touched and he quickly took a step away from him every time he felt someone looking in their direction.
He still felt guilty and wrong.
Hermione watched him with intend now and it made his skin crawl. There was something in him that wanted out. He doesn’t know if he was about to throw up or cry.
“A while.” he muttered hoarsely avoiding her eyes. He didn’t want to talk about how unnatural and fake he was. He didn’t want anyone to see this ugly thing in his soul that made him turn towards wizards instead of witches. Especially not Hermione. He knew her though. Knew that she wouldn't stop until she had torn every bit of information she wanted out of his cold-sweaty hands. If she put her mind on it he didn’t stand a chance to her. He had to much respect and love for her too to lie to her face, if she really started to ask the right questions. that’s one reason why he never told her.
Nervously he rubbed his hands dry on his robes. his skin was damp from nervousness and even though they were in front of the big fire he was shivering under the slight draft that ghosted through the old family home.
“Is he your first...” She didn’t end the sentence. She didn’t need to. Ron felt bare under her eyes. Her stillness scared the shit out of him. Hermione was never quiet when it came to rubbish like that. She was loud and forceful and impatient when it came to feelings. That he learned during their marriage. Learned to live with her stinging hexes and sharp tongue and her hands desperately clawing in his skin to find something stable. This stillness was new. He wasn't used to being the centre of attention like this. Instinctively he ducked his head low and shaggy red hair falls in his face to hide his face from her inquiring stare.
“No” he whispered pulling his shoulders high and hoping it would end soon. That she wouldn’t pry his chest open and make him show her all his ugliness. The big lie that was her marriage, their relationship.
“Is it my fault? Did I make you gay?”
“There’s no such a thing.” he growls and is shocked by his own harshness. “You can’t make people like that! I’ve always been like that, Hermione! I’m not proud of it, but I can’t be different and I can’t hide it any more! It hurts, ‘Mione! It hurts me! It hurts the kids! It not fair to Fatin!”
She stared at him like he’d just broke a part of her.
Maybe he had.
He’d known there’d be talking about his gay thing when he decided he’d bring his boyfriend home. To be fair it was the only way Fatin had been able to move him to even visit the Burrow for Christmas. He’d been neither eating nor sleeping right since October and George and Harry had both started to complain about his sub-optimal performance at work. Things had become unbearable. As long as there were nothing serious and his companions changed often, he had not seen a reason to tell his family but as soon as the relationship with Fatin grew steadier felt miserable to lie to his family. He knew he needed to talk about this thing.
Just because he knew it. didn't make it less easy to do though. It still difficult for him to block that part of his life out, opening up himself to others like that was scary. talking with Hermione about this thing was nerve-wrecking. There are tears burning behind his eyes, but he blinked them away and lifts his chin stubbornly.
“I know this is not...healthy. But it’s either having me with the gay thing or not having me at all.”
He’s said it.
Hermione opened her mouth but there are no words.
Then her face turned to something behind him making Ron look up.
Ron has never seen his big brother so full of fury and he's seen his share of Percy’s anger over the years. They’d both inherited the destructive temper Mum Weasley could wield but in comparison to Ron, Percy never had a single lesson Auror training to suppress it.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed about! Don’t you dare to apologise to her!” he thundered and his fingers dig deep into Ron's shoulder. “Neither she nor anyone else has a say in who you want to be with!” Ron doesn’t know if he’s grateful or terrified. Being stuck between a confused Hermione and Percy who was just a hair away from hexing her or punching her in the face or both. It felt like being in the middle of a stare down between an injured lion and an angry mother bear.
“I loved you.” Hermione hissed and Ron heard the silent accusation. You lied to me. You used me.
She pointed her wand against his chest, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks. He didn’t have the heart to defend.
“You said you loved me!”
Ron just looked at her and waited for the hex to hit him. There were steps on the stairs and the rest of the family must have heard the uproar in the living room.
Ron really wanted to answer.
He wanted to tell her that not everything was a lie. That he still loved her. Loves her. But his mind was empty and then the awaited curse hit him and there’s a bunch of birds hacking into his arms which he used desperately try protect his face and eyes. He heard people screaming and crying and Ron just couldn’t make a sense of it. Blood was roaring behind his ears, his heartbeat was like a blur and he didn’t know how to breath any more. His mind was a cacophony of screaming and no air and sharp beaks leaving piecing pain in his arms shoulders and scalp.
And then there’s just blackness.
It was quiet.
His body ached and he could see the red blotches of light behind his eyelids.
There was the silent sound of relaxed breathing and the homely cracking of wood in the fireplace.
Something was on his arms that felt like cotton and a big hand with bony fingers soothed over his hair.
There was a smell of book dust, Mum’s food and oil from muggle machines in the garden shack.
“Dad?” he croaked and blinked blearily into the well-known face.
Dad was sitting on the armrest.
As soon as Ron sat up he slid into the space next to him and pulled him against his side.
For a moment Ron needed to digest the closeness.
The last time his father had hugged him, he still had been small enough to be tugged under his father’s arm and Dad had a few muscles and fat deposits more than now.
At this point in life Ron is taller than him and Dad's arms are a little too thin to be comfortable. Usually Mum is the one that does the hugging and stuffing you full with food and Dad does the “we need to talk about your life choices, son” talks. They have some kind of division of tasks. It works for them.
“Son.” his Dad rumbled and the gentleness in his voice made Ron feel even more guilty.
“I’m sorry I ruined Christmas.” he muttered studying his feet. “Where’s Hermione?”
Dad pressed him a little bit more forceful against his side and for a moment there was just the sound of Mum cooking in the kitchen. Ron looked into his fathers face. His mouth was a thin white line but his eyes were soft and warm. Ron has his eyes. Same shape, same colour. He’d always liked them. It’s one of the few things he really likes about himself.
“You did nothing wrong, Ron.” Dad said and there's that calm, good-natured authority of his father that makes it impossible for Ron to contradict no matter how old he is.
“We were happy that you brought your partner with you. Fatin is smart and kind and obviously cares a lot for you and I am very happy that you have someone like this in your life.” there’s another silence. Ron feels himself relax next to him.
“We’re your family. We want you to be happy and have people around you that treat you well. Your mother and I want to accompany you on your way as long as we are around, but you’re making your own choices and it’s not our place to judge you for who you choose to love. That’s nobody’s business but yours.”
Ron bit his lips to prevent himself from crying. He’d always known his family loves him and even if Mum would have complained about the lack of grandchildren if he’d confessed his gay thing to her as teenager, she’d still always loved him. And Dad...Ron always suspected he didn’t care much about his children’s partners unless they were able to tell him about Muggle customs or something else interesting.
“Did Hermione...Did she go home?” he asked. “How bad was it? Did she cry a lot?”
“We asked her to go and cool off. Don’t feel bad for her. Injuring you just because she couldn’t deal with seeing you having another partner was wrong. Even if you two weren’t divorced for over ten years, it wouldn’t be an excuse to be violent against you.”
Ron felt a careful smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
“Dad, I’ve dealt with worse than this. I’ve worked as an Auror and I’ve been in the war. I was hit by a giant stone statue at the age of eleven for Merlin's sake. that’s just a few scratches… I guess I deserve it...been keeping this thing from her for so long and all...”
His dad let out a huff of displease and got up as they heard Mum call for dinner from the kitchen.
“ No one deserves violence from their ex. Especially not my kids.” his father said decidedly before making his way to the kitchen.
Chapter 2: Workaholic
So what if Harry was a tiny bit too clingy to be a normal best mate and or that Ron spoiled him a little by making sure he didn't die for a stupid reason like forgetting to eat.
They had never been very normal. Had been getting in trouble as soon as they met and Ron has always been the first to jump in to support him when he felt like stuff went over his head. They survived a war with it so why should they change it just because Hermione mocked him for being mothered by Ron.
It was way past midnight when the last of the mission teams came back to the headquarter. Harry didn’t plan to wait for the regular patrol teams that had been doubled around Christmas to be prepared for all the family drama induced hexes, but he got a late Christmas present in form of a very neatly constrained and silenced Felix Holm whose giant head was bright red and seemingly brimming to explode from all the unsaid curses and expletives he wanted to throw at the officers.
It was almost two hours later that he finally had sent Holm to the custody cells, made his last rounds through the office, guilted Goldstein into bringing a junior officer to St. Mungo’s and could now finally close the Holm file.
Harry didn’t really care that he wasn’t at home for Christmas.
As the head of the Auror Department he considered it a question of leading with a good example to be there during one of the busiest times of the year. His children wre no longer small. Even his youngest had started at Hogwarts this year and they were used to their parents having to work on holidays and weekends. Still he didn't want to miss his children receiving presents from him at Christmas, so he went to the Burrow for a few hours at the crack of dawn that morning, where his mother-in-law, Molly Weasley, had been the only ones already awake.
Out of habit he made a round through the house, while Molly prepared some tea. Maybe it was a little bit intrusive to crack open the doors and look at his ex-wife, in-laws and their children, but he couldn't stop smiling especially when he reached the big attic, where his nephews and nieces had build a big landscape of mattresses, blankets and pillows to sleep in a big pile of Weasley. There where empty snack bowls and half-drunken bottles of juice and the kids had had obviously fun talking and playing the last night. As quiet as possible he woke up his three children and motioned them to silently come down stairs for their presents. He noticed his niece Lucy blearily blinking into the light from the corridor but she just looked at him long enough to identify him, before groggily falling back down on her pillow and dozing off again.
On the way down the stair he stepped into his best friend’s childhood bedroom for a moment to catch a breath of calmness.
The Window in Ron’s room had the most beautiful view over the garden and the fields surrounding the house and the playful, careful concentration of Ron’s younger self, which was still weirdly conserved in the design of this room, felt like home in a way that only the protective walls of the Gryffindor tower could rival.
Ron was sleeping, like the majority of the house. Harry knitted his eyebrows together when he saw the man curled up in his friends arms. Harry was sure he’d seen this face somewhere though he couldn’t quite place where he’d met the guy. Ron had never been the person that liked sleeping with other people in the same bed. Well...except during his marriage his wife probably. Harry had never liked to dwell on the technicalities Ron and Hermione’s marital life.
What ever way he looked at the sleeping men before him. This was very uncharacteristic for his friend. Ron didn’t casual body contact. He slapped blokes on the shoulders and back and ruffled their hair and when he was especially affectionate he’d sling an arm around their shoulder and give it a squeeze. Ron was a pretty tactile person and the female officers that worked in his team got respectful touches once he got used to them. Harry had seen them being kissed casually on the cheek or the crown of their head when Ron had been especially happy with their work. It was mainly body contact with men that his friend has always seemed a little uncomfortable about. Seeing him sleep next to another guy without a certain amount of distance between them was so out of character for Ron.
Harry was his closest male friend and had been probably on the receiving end of the majority of his best mate’s awkward one-armed hugs and even he had only shared the bed with the redhead a handful of times when they were still young students and during that one night after Ron pulled him out of the lake.
It wasn’t something that Harry really minded, since he as well wasn’t the bloke to hug people at random. (to be honest most people didn’t seem very keen to be hugged by Harry. Ginny once had said he was just a bit too intense with everything he did and obviously some people found that a little freaky.) Seeing Ron sleep so relaxed, while spooning another man gave him a weird feeling in the stomach though.
His first caveman-like impulse was drag this stranger out of his friend’s bed and push him down the stairs. Away from Ron, away from the family he had declared as his own. Luckily he he didn’t spend too much time and energy thinking deeper about the scene presented to him as the sound of furniture scratching over the kitchen floor reminded him of the main objective of his visit. With one last glance at the Ron and his bed companion he closed the door behind him and continued his way downstairs where he was greeted by his two sons, Jamie and Al and his daughter Lily.
Harry loved giving presents. Having the funds to give things to the ones he cared about without worrying about the price was one of the greatest things about being Harry Potter and not the dirt-poor boy living under the stairs of his aunt any more.
Thirty minutes of hugs and his boys and girl smiling, their eyes glittering in delight as they ripped the colourful paper off the boxes, that was all the Christmas he needed before he went back to his desk to re-plan the day’s patrols after an accident incapacitated two of his officers.
Over the day he had forgotten about what he’d seen on Christmas morning, but when he was was startled from his sleep on the couch the following day and squinted towards the silhouette of Ron holding a cup of fresh tea against the blinding light of the winter sun in front of the office window he remembered and he felt a little angry for a moment. The emotion was pushed aside violently when he started to adjust his eyes to the light and noticed the stress and worry in his friend’s face.
The tea and a piece of toast in his stomach and ten minutes later they were on site.
On the way there Ron had given him a condensed intro on what happened and when they entered the old Welsh manor they were greeted by the Robards who showed them his findings.
Cases involving child abuse and neglect were always a little difficult to stomach for Harry even after over ten years of working in the field. The destroying of official documents during the war and the fact that there were much more Muggleborns that didn’t wish contact with the British wizard community and decided against introducing their magical children, lead to much more cases of young wizard and witches not going to a magical school like Hogwarts. There were much more cases of children falling through cracks in the system and becoming victims of people that promised them guidance in their magical talents.
Seeing the tiny cells that had contained a dozen of unregistered young wizards and witches made him want to vomit and he was grateful that Ron immediately started leading the documentation team and have an eye on the officers that tried to stabilise the children for transport. Which gave him the opportunity to step outside for a moment to regain some professionalism.
It was a good thing he did or otherwise he wouldn’t have seen the young boy hiding behind one of the rhododendron bushes in the overgrown garden. After showing him his batch and a decent amount of crouching on the frozen dirt he was able to coax the boy out of his hiding place far enough for him to conjure a blanket and make it easy for the kid to grab and get a little bit of warmth. There was something weirdly feral about the way all these children acted and this kind of jerky, cautious movement was something Harry wasn’t ready yet to recognise in his own childhood self.
Timothy, as he found out, didn’t have any knowledge about his origins, his age or even his full name. He was on the smaller side and a bit too thin to be healthy, his joints being knobby protruding knots on lanky limbs. It turned out that boy had been the one that had contacted the Aurors to help the other children after he had managed to break the magical lock on his cage and escape the house.
The witch that kept them there had made them call her mother and some of the children were indeed her own offspring, though she didn’t make much of a positive difference between her own and the children she’d acquired in other ways.
Timothy was around Lily’s age and, a far as he knew, he was the oldest of the children. he’d been with the woman as long as he could remember. From the distance Harry wasn’t able to detect any wounds or scars, but he knew that all children would need professional help and care to find a way to deal with the invisible scares that the long captivity, the humiliation and the lack of parental love and basic needs not being met caused.
Harry had at least been able to go outside and go to school even if his aunt and uncle liked to lock him no matter if they found a reason to justify it or not. Timothy didn't have that. The only friendly contact he had were with the other children he and another boy his age had decided to care for as good as they could.
After the case in Talerddig didn’t require his presence any more, the culprit was locked in safely in a cell and the children where given into care of the Cedric Diggory orphanage for magical children, it was already far into the afternoon and things became a little quieter in the office.
Ron brought Harry some take-away tikka masala and he ate his lunch in the observation room while he watched Goldstein interrogating Holm. If he ignored the expletives that the red-faced Mr. Holm spat towards the officer like venom, it was almost peaceful.
Ron sat next to him inhaling his butter chicken, his shoulders gently bumping with Harry’s once in a while when he dipped some bread into the Styrofoam bowl. It wasn’t enough to distract him from the interrogation, but Harry couldn’t help but shoot his friend a fast sidewards glance every time he felt him move. There was somethigh about food when it was stuffed into Ron’s face with delight that made it look so much more appealing than when it was on Harry’s own plate. Ron just looked so positively happy when he ate and Harry wanted some of that happiness too. When he looked the next time there was a crumb of vegetable at the corner of his mouth. Harry’s vision unintentionally zoomed in on it and he had the confusing urge to wipe with his thumb to see if it tasted as good as it looked… he knew that Ron could be persuaded let him try some of the butter chicken, but Harry wasn't good at asking for things.
Perhaps he should get butter chicken next time they’d get Indian take-away he thought as he concentrated back on the interrogation maybe leaning a little bit against Ron’s side.
Ron Weasley was a workaholic, like him.
He rarely clocked in after sunrise and after a crime-fighting day at for the Auror Department he more often than not went for another shift of paper work at his brother George’s joke shop. In comparison to Harry he was able to keep a regular schedule though. As long as his work allowed it, he would have lunch at lunchtime and dinner in the evening and have a regular of at least four hours of sleep at home in a real bed. At the time when Harry had freshly started his position as department chief it had become a daily habit that Ron would bring food to eat with Harry and force him to take something that kind of resembled roughly a break when he deemed the time was calling for a regular meal.
He had also started to wordlessly take over tasks that usually were part of Harry’s job description, like organising raids, distributing cases or coaching and supporting the rookies. Ron was good at strategies and planning and had an eye for details as well as the bigger picture when Harry was focused too much on one project. Since the redhead officially worked part-time to take care of his children and the finances of his brother’s enterprise, he didn’t get the pay for the leading position, but Harry was sure that the staff agreed with him that Ron just as much as a chief as of him.
Harry never really said anything, because regarding this particular topic he didn’t know how to get his words in any order that made sense, but he really liked it. It was nice and familiar to rely on Ron and know that he always had his back. Sometimes there was an inkling that this maybe wasn't the way normal best mates acted around each other.
Not that it was really bothering him. So what if Harry was a tiny bit too clingy to be a normal best mate and or that Ron spoiled him a little by making sure he didn't die for a stupid reason like forgetting to eat.
They had never been very normal. Had been getting in trouble as soon as they met and Ron has always been the first to jump in to support him when he felt like stuff went over his head. They survived a war with it so why should they change it just because Hermione mocked him for being mothered by Ron.
“What are you even doing here, ‘Mione!”he muttered grumpily futilely trying to clean up the mess of different papers, letters and files on his desk trying ban the heat from his cheeks. As soon as Ron had noticed her in Harry’s office, he’d gone white as sheet and he had hastily placed the tray with sandwiches and tea on the filing shelf closest to the door before shrinking out of the room.
“Why’re you not with your kids at the Burrow or something? it’s not like the unspeakables do any work during the holidays!” and then after he almost pushed the jar with an important evidence over the edge of the tabletop. “What the hell is wrong with Ron anyway! haven't seen you guys so weird around each other even after your divorce!”
“ I was kicked out. Ginny said she’d hex me a new butthole if I’d get close to Ron again...except she phrased it a lot more colourful and with more words.” Nervously she’s scratching the faded scar at the side of her neck. Harry hates to think about the time when she received it.
Hermione looked like she hadn’t slept. Her eyes were red from crying. There was red traces of her scratching on her forearms and neckline and the nail beds on her right hand were freshly gnawed open. Overall even someone as inattentive as Harry could see that she was doing badly.
“He panicked and it was my fault. I was so hurt and angry. I wanted to hurt him too, so he’d understand how I feel….or whatever...i don’t even know why ...I...I’m a horrible person.” she slumped together and hid her face in her hands. Harry is really shit at consoling people. He wants to be all helpful and hug them and tell them everything will be alright in the end, but he knows to well that life is a bitch and so he usually ends up dumbly standing there and staring at the person on question like he’d been hit with a stupefy. All the emotional support shit was one of the tasks that Ron took over before Harry could even ask him to.
“Uhm...” he tried to say eloquently after watching her cry and mumble incoherently for a while. “Hermione. What happened? What did you do? What did he do? What the hell is going on?”
There was short silence in which Hermione was blinking at him and Harry stared back very confused, dlightly worried and also a little annoyed. How did she expect him to be of any help if she didn’t tell what the problem was in the first place. She knew he was shit with feelings and other people’s feelings in particular, so as long as she didn’t need his practical help to solve a problem (like putting people into cells, hexing people or helping her clean the catacombs below Hogwarts), there was really no point in getting Harry involved.
“I don’t think I’m the one that should tell you that...” she said hesitantly and and looked down on her hands.
“But... Harry...” he felt himself focusing on her face. The way her tone changed made clear that now they were getting close to the actual reason why she visited his office on Boxing Day.
“Do you think he married me out of… I don’t know...obligation? Because he felt like he had to marry and I was just the choice he hated the least?”
Harry wanted to laugh. If there was one thing he’d never associate his best friends’ marriage with it was lukewarm feelings. Hermione looked very serious though so he pressed his lips together to stifle the chuckle and the biting sarcasm before he answered.
“’Mione, you know I'm shit with this...but I think I might know the both of you long enough to say I’m very positive that he loved you a lot. It’s Ron we’re talking about! Ron isn’t like that! Ron is...” he didn't even know what Ron was but having one third of their friendship trio question their bond felt a little cruel and really confusing.
“Why would you even think that? You’re one of the best things that ever happened to both of us, Ron and me! Without you we’d probably not have survived even the first year at school!”
Hermione dug her fingers into the cloud of thick, curly hair around her head and groaned in frustration.
“I don’t even know what to think any more!”
“You wanna know what I think, ‘Mione?” Harry grumbled and rounded the desk to pat her shoulder helplessly. “You don’t need to think. You need to go home and take a “Dreamless Sleep” potion and go to bed. It's late, you look like shit and what you say doesn’t make any sense to me.”
She went a few minutes after that and Harry went back to his work, drank the cooling tea that Ron had brought into the room earlier and tried to recover from the overdose of heart-to-heart talk.
Another hour later Ron came into the room already wearing his cloak and bullied him into eating his sandwiches before he went home for the night. For a moment Harry wanted to ask him for the reason behind all the drama, but then he remembered that he really didn’t want to be caught in between his two best friends fighting. He really hated it when they’d tried to make him choose a side in the past and while he secretly always was inclined to take Ron’s side in any kind of conflict( it was Ron after all) he loved Hermione too and didn’t want to hurt her.
Ron leaned against the desk and smiled tiredly down on him as Harry finished choking down the sandwiches. There was something delicate and soft in their shared silence. The room was only lit by the dim desk lamp which gave everything a a gently, golden tint and Ron knee leaning against Harry’s felt intimate in a way that made Harry feel slightly jittery and very comfortable at the same time.
“Make sure to get at least a little sleep, will ya?” muttered the redhead after the sandwich was gone and slapped Harry’s shoulder before he made his way to the door and sad his Goodbye.
Ron was his best mate.
Chapter 3: a lonely star
you learned two things if you wanted to live a somewhat peaceful life as a wands-over-cauldrons kind of bloke (he wasn’t sure if he liked that description). You had to be very discreet and you became hyper-aware of everything and everyone to be able to identify every threat to your secret as well as kindred people to connect with.
Ron was lucky in that regard.
He’d always had healthy instincts. Knew who to trust and where he needed to be extra careful. Even as a teenager he had been smart enough to lie and find ways to be with men without someone noticing and he had a good mentor that showed him which signs to look for when he was searching for a bed companion. Compared to other men that had a far harder time to stay undetected he’d never be a very flamboyant person so people in general didn’t suspect his orientation and as a war veteran and auror he could act threatening enough, that he was pretty safe to be not sold out by his own people.
It was still difficult to lie though. Especially to people he cared about. It made him twitchy when he was around other men and the usual camaraderie between aurors and male friends didn't come as easy to him as to others.
He’d always tried to limit the amount of touches in public to swift slaps and hair ruffles. Only among his siblings he was willing to get closer, and if it was just to annoy them.
He’d played that role for so long that it had become second nature to ogle witches when he knew he was in public even though their soft bodies did nothing for him. Except of his ex-wife, he’d always picked women to be his public crushes that were far out of his reach.
Actually Hermione was also far out of his league, he’d never expected for her to have any interest in an idiot like him.
In fact he had played the role long enough that there had been times that he’d started to believe his own lies. Shortly after war, when everything was raw and difficult he’d actually bought the monthly Wizard’s Review and he told himself he couldn’t be fairy, because he was able to get off on the magazine’s centrefold lady. He actually didn’t hate to be intimate with Hermione so he couldn’t be gay.
And if he felt sometimes a little itchy when he thought of Quidditch players like Krum or Oliver Wood, then it was probably because he just really admired them and wanted to be like them. That thing back when he was young and impressionable...he didn’t enjoy it because it was a bloke, he just was a horny teenager and it was better than his own hand.
Back then in his early twenties Ron had been really good at lying to himself.
He pushed it back as far as he could.
He married Hermione and they had kids and sometimes he could almost forget about how weird it felt to...perform for her, telling himself how lucky he was to survive the war and have this wonderful family.
It never went fully away though.
However, it is really difficult for any kind of gayness to go away if you’ve got a brilliant and ridiculously gorgeous best mate that’s basically glued to your side the majority of the day.
Sweet, clueless Harry had always been his... how did junior officer Horton had called it...cryptonite? There were other blokes of curse but Harry...Harry had always been special to him from the time before even thought the sticky stuff in relationships.
The first guy that Ron noticed in that way was Oliver Wood. Not only was the former Gryffindor Captain a pretty fit bloke, he was also a keeper like Ron.
He was intense and focused and he was a great strategist. Looking back Ron should have known he had a type, his two best friends in the world had the same kind of focus and overwhelming talent after all.
Back then he had been way to busy panicking about the male presence in in his wet dreams to even consider spending any thought on analysing his interest in ridiculously talented and goal-orientated people.
After Wood there was that short episode of swooning over Krum but when he noticed that people started picking on him for it, he worked hard on hiding it and soon enough he became more and more annoyed of Krum’s adoration for Hermione.
At that time he wasn’t even sure what angered him more that once again someone else was chosen over himself or that Krum caused tension between him Hermione, while he was still dealing with aftermath of his fight with Harry.
Harry had been it for him from the time he saw him fight against that bloody dragon. That stupid beast could have easily killed his friend and the thought of losing Harry scared the magic out of him.
That was the first night he dreamt about Harry.
It was in the early morning hours that followed that night he promised himself that no one, including Harry, should ever know about this thing.
He managed to mostly keep that promise.
Of course...Sirius had known as soon as he’d seen them interact in the Grimmauld Place, back in the summer before their fifth school year.
Ron turned the mug of flitter punch in his hands and watched the multicoloured swirls gently float through the hot beverage like the stars over the sky on a clear night.
Sirius hadn’t even asked if it was true, he just told Ron that he should forget about it, because Harry needed him as a friend and they couldn’t afford to be distracted by stuff like that.
As if he didn’t know that!
Ron had seen his best mate fall over his own feet as soon as he caught a glimpse of that Ravenclaw girl and he was more than aware of the way Harry sometimes looked at Ginny.
He wasn’t stupid! Even as horny teenager, he knew that Voldemort was back and the chance that Harry wouldn’t be swept around by the tides of wars was as small as Ron and Hermione not being by his side trying to keep him alive and able to fulfil his destiny.
Ron wasn’t sure if Sirius really understood that Harry wasn’t James, it sometimes seemed like he’d almost confuse the boy with his long-lost friend, but the man genuinely cared for Harry’s well-being and that alone was enough for Ron to promise that he wouldn’t make things even more complicated for Harry by telling him about his sexuality or feelings for him.
It was easy to trust Sirius.
The man quickly became his confidante in a house full of family and order members. Harry was distant and angry and Sirius was there and even though he was much older than Ron he indulgently answered Ron questions and and listened about his complaints.
He sometimes suspected that Sirius liked talking to him, because it reminded him that there was still a life out there and it distracted him from his own grief and trauma.
They played chess in the early morning hours and Sirius gave him fire whiskey laughing hoarsely about him coughing and tearing up as the liquid burned in his throat and showed him how and what kind of magical herbs to smoke.
He taught him how to cheat at cards, all kinds of useful and maybe not legal hexes, how to charm your way out of almost everything and how to throw a proper punch.
Ron took a sip of his drink and tried pushing back the memories of haunted eyes, boyish smiles on a grown man’s face and the thrilling feeling of his opinions being valued by such a brilliant person.
The stars of the flitter punch burned on his tongue like the beard burn around his mouth, back in summer ‘95.
He almost chuckled when he remembered how scared he’d been that his mother would notice and easily find out what her youngest son did at night instead of sleeping.
How easy his family reacted to his coming out and how much he had been fretting about being revealed for decades.
He should have know better and trust them to tease him merciless but still they’d always support him - no matter what society thought- when it was important to him.
Ron was comfortably wedged between George and Bill on the couch, his face was warm from the fireplace in front of them and the chaos that usually came with a family gathering at the Burrow had lulled down to a peaceful mumbling of the Weasley family members weaving in and out of conversations. After a long day at the office and one case that had been specifically hard to stomach (cases involving children were always especially heartbreaking), he was glad he was finally able to relax a little. The children had gone who knows where to be out of the adults direct reach and Ron heard his father snoring in one of the battered wing chairs. There was a soft festive song playing from the radio and everyone seemed to be full of good food and punch and way too content to move.
When he left work, he’d pondered for a moment if he should convince Harry to come to the Burrow with him, but since Harry’d broken up with Ginny, he’d tried to keep his time at the Burrow as short as possible.
Probably because he still felt a little awkward being around his ex and her family. Ron could understand the reasoning behind his friend’s absence, but it still felt a little weird that Harry wasn’t around during Christmas.
Since their were eleven years old they had never celebrated Christmas without each other. Harry’s surprised and almost shocked expression when he noticed that he had actual Christmas presents at this point belonged to the holidays as much as a big feast and the obligatory Weasley jumper (still maroon-coloured).
“Is Fatin your first male partner?” asked Percy almost seamlessly shifting the topic from George’s new line of trick candy and the ethics of giving people a way to be invisible for a short amount of time back to Ron’s boyfriend.
Ron couldn't help but grip his mug a little tighter. It still felt weird to talk about this in the open, but he’d promised himself to be true to himself at least among the ones closest to him.
He was tired of lying.
“No.” he muttered.
“First that is kinda presentable.” he added carefully avoiding his brother’s eyes by staring into the fire.
His ears were getting warmer and though he didn’t want to be ashamed he still felt the redness rise in his cheek and his hands getting sweaty.
“There were some...not so serious encounters...” he muttered sinking deeper into the couch. “...also some of the guys I felt more for are kinda...dead.” he shrugged helplessly and through side glance in Percy’s direction.
He felt weirdly relieved, that his brother didn’t even try to stare at him. Percy lazily watched Charlie and Ginny playing a game of exploding snap and looked awfully comfortable and relaxed with his wife dozing in his lap.
“I mean one look at Hermione and you know what kinda people I like…” Ron said with regrowing courage in his voice. “I’m not really very creative in that matter.”
“Smart, ambitious people that give a shit, huh?” Percy grinned.
“I don’t know why you sound so ashamed of that… there’s nothing wrong with that...look at my partners...all smarter that I’ll ever be.”
Bill snorted muttering something about always feeling like a clumsy idiot around his wife, which Ron could fully understand, because anyone who didn’t understand the pure power that was concentrated in Fleur Weasley’s elegant fingers, was obviously blind, deaf and couldn't sense magical ability to safe their own life.
“I guess, growing up with my siblings and my parents around ruined me for dumb people.” snickered George.
“Every girl had to compete with Fred. They had to be smarter and funnier and more interesting than him and that kinda ruined like 98% of the possibility I was even interested in anyone relationship wise. I mean sexy stuff is fine, but if that’s the only way I could relate to them, I didn’t want to spend enough time with them for me or them to be happy.”
Fred was still a sensitive topic.
As soon as his name hung in the air it was like a dark grey veil was falling over George’s face. Quietly the brothers waited for the remaining twin until he had conquered the knot in his chest enough to continue speaking.
“Unless we’d have found a girl that was okay with dating both of us, I doubt either of us would have been able to have a lasting relationship. Our life was alright for us...but it probably wasn’t too healthy compared to other people.”
“Well, to be honest, none of my siblings were ever normal.” mumbled Bill into his mug with a shrug. “it’s just not what Weasleys do.”
and that was that.
The topic changed back to invisibility candy and if it was legal to kick Goblins, if they deserved it ( “Only if it’s for self-defence, Bill!”), and once again Ron was amazed how anti-climatic his whole coming-out thing was.
To his surprise Harry actually arrived at the Burrow around two in the morning. With a tired nod to the last few members of the family, he pressed himself between his son James and Ron. Harry pulled Ron’s head close enough he could feel his breath against his temple and muttered a few work-related infos in his ear, that the redhead wouldn’t remember the next day anyway.
Feeling his sister’s eyes on him, Ron closely guarded his expression and made sure to neither look too desperate to get away from his friend nor like he was too obviously enjoying the closeness. That thing with Harry was best to stay unaddressed.
He was high strung and his nervous energy was infective, so it wasn’t a surprise that Ginny, Harry and their firstborn started to play moonlight quidditch, while Bill, Ron and Angelina watched and were (very partial) referees.
It was almost three and there were red-haired heads poking out of the windows as the Potters shouted and zoomed around on their brooms. Both Ginny and Harry were extremely competitive while James, though a good player, was never serious about anything including the sport. Halfway through their impromptu game James had decided that he’d rather disturb his parents’ game than trying to win himself.
So he had urged a protesting Ron to climb behind him on the broom and they wobbled through the air throwing wrinkly apples at both Harry and Ginny under the laughter and cheer of the children at the attic window.
December rain drizzled icy against their face and Ron felt free and light like he hadn’t for years.
Afterwards they decided it was still to early to go asleep, ate a big part of the rests from dinner and and drunk hot mulled wine and flitter punch James and his parents debated passionately who won the game and Ron, just because Harry always got weirdly affronted when his best friend wasn’t on his side, loudly proclaimed that obviously he and James winners.
Ginny roared and there was a play-fight between Ron and his sister until he managed to unfairly fixate her like the Auror he was James and Bill joined in and there was big pile of Weasley trying to tickle each other while the half-drunken mugs rolled over the wooden floor leaving glittering puddles behind.
Ron lost his sense of time somewhere around the time they started drinking the scary, illegal, clear liquor that Charlie’d brought from Romania. James maybe tried to beg his mother to get some of it too, but he was still a little too young for hard liquor and so he had to stick with Mum’s apple juice.
His nephew tucked under his arm, his sister warm and sleepy against his side and positively buzzed he and his siblings shared stories from Hogwarts and from back when they were small and everyone was at home.
Ron must have fallen asleep, because a few hours later he was rudely shaken awake by his mother.
Looking around him with bleary eyes he could see Bill similar groggily coming to his feet and Ginny stopping Al from pestering James before he was fully awake (the kid had a terrible temper in the morning, but siblings could be without mercy).
Harry was curled up in Dad’s favourite chair still fast asleep and Ron could barely prevent Mum from waking him up in a similar matter.
Harry rarely slept longer than a few hours a night.
Often he went days without proper rest and even if he closed his eyes he was a fitful, light sleeper with nightmares torturing his mind every night.
Ron knew, because Harry talked in his sleep and he’d shared a dorm with him long enough to know his friends nightly routine of dry sobs and desperate whispers.
Now he was quiet though. A peaceful expression on his face, almost a smile, and his hands gently and relaxed gripping in the fringe of the knitted blanket he’s pulled over himself for warmth.
“He’ll wake up on his own. Let him sleep, Mum.” he said as he pushed his family towards the kitchen for breakfast, hoping that his friend would get another hour of sleep more before they went back to work.
When Harry Potter grew up he learned very fast, that if he needed something done he had to do it himself.
He had to make sure he was fed and clothed and as safe as possible and with that mindset he went into the the wizard world. He realised as soon as he arrived at the castle that the adults at Hogwarts were similarly hopeless and slow to act and understand as the muggle adults and that if he wanted to keep the immanent threat at bay he had to do something about it.
He wasn’t a hero or a saviour, he wasn’t even exceptionally smart. He was a survivor and he did what he could to keep himself as safe and stable as possible.
In his very core he considered himself pretty simple minded. He saw a problem, he concentrated on the issue until it he found a way to overcome it.
To his luck he found his friends and family of choice in Hermione and Ron and somehow unconsciously sensed that those two would be the ones above all he needed to keep save to stay sane.
Hermione and him were very similar in the point that they could get lost in what they considered their task and needed the third of their trio to keep them grounded and remind them there was still a world around them.
Ron, not appearing special among his talented brothers and not as eager to gather knowledge as Hermione, was fast to dismiss himself as the dumb part of the trio, but on days like today, Harry was reminded again how adaptable and smart his friend was.
It was a rare occasion for him to be out in the field like that these days. The man they chased was dangerous though and Harry who didn’t trust his senior officers to lead the group safely had opted to take Ron’s hand-picked team and his partner to get the job done as efficiently as possible.
The redhead had trained the ladies and junior officer Ramón well and so even for Harry it was difficult to see through their cover as they slowly circled the village the man was hiding.
While Harry choose to stay in the shadows, Ron was bold enough stay out right in the open, smartly tailing his target and the young man that was allegedly his hostage, while still directing his team and gathering information. In contrast to Harry who’d always gravitated towards illusion charms to change his appearance, Ron barely changed anything about himself except for the hair colour. He was still enviably tall and well-proportioned. He still had his freckles and perfectly straight nose and frustratingly easy smiles and people just didn’t assume him to be anything else but friendly.
He was able to dissolve tension with jovial jokes and more than once his social skills had dissolved otherwise dangerous situations into nothingness. Thus it wasn’t surprising that Ron was able to stand right behind the hostage at the line putting toilet paper, potatoes and eggs on the band as he continued his gossiping with the elderly lady behind him.
The hostage was in his early twenties and there were fresh, sloppily concealed cuts at the neck and arms. Watching the hunched figure of the young man in his dirty trainers, faded muggle hoodie and ripped jeans no one would have expected him to be a world leading figure in modern potion development. It still was clear what the kidnapper wanted to do with the skills of the young scientist, but he already had killed a South-American explorer and a Somalian charm researcher. This man was probably part of a bigger network which was hunting budding science protégés and after the world has seen the British Wizard society rip itself apart during the war, they couldn’t afford foreign wizards to feel unsafe on British soil. Due to their geographical position and educational system they were already more isolated than other nations on the continent and though this had its advantages it made them also more vulnerable because they didn’t have such a huge community to fall back on. they’ve worked hard to build up the reputation of the MoM and the British Magical Law Enforcement and couldn’t risk losing their face in front of the international wizard community again by messing this up.
Especially with a perpetrator that was so disrespectfully sure of himself taking the hostage with him for grocery shopping of all things.
Shaking the icy rain out of his dirty blond hair Harry stayed carefully hidden as he watched the scene through the big windows of the grocery store. With every other auror it would have been really hard for him to stay so passive watching them work, but he knew Ron’s and his own talents well enough to accept that when it came to true undercover work Ron was the one that brought results.
Out of his hiding spot he could see three other members of the team approaching from the roof of the store and in the shadows between cars and houses. What he couldn’t observe though expected to be standard procedure, was the silent finite incantatem that was placed on the hostage to counteract potential binding spells or even an imperio (Who knows what’s going on in the psyche of a bastard like this one…). This finite was the real reason why Ron, who was allegedly the most likely the one closest in power to the man, had to get so close to the target.
The young man swayed slightly and then grew suddenly grew more alert. Harry concluded the must have been something to keep the victim compliant as he mustered him fearfully lifting his shoulders.
Watching his partner and his team slowly closing in on the subject also showed how independent Ron was from him. Ron didn’t really need Harry to survive in the way Harry did. Ron was able to easily connect with people and make his environment work for him. To be honest as much as he was proud of Ron being successful and strong it also made his stomach hurt when he thought about how easily his friend could live without him.
He wasn’t able to dwell for a long time on this though because at that moment the culprit and the hostage left the store and Ron, who was still paying, flashed him an alarming glance and he crouched closer. The hostage pulled something tiny from the pocket of his hoodie, looked at it shortly and threw it behind a garbage bin before he resumed slowly trudging behind his captor, who still seemed infuriatingly unperceptive and relaxed as the made their way over the parking lot towards a rundown pick-up truck.
They had almost reached it when suddenly half a dozen auror apparated right in front of them, two taking the boy and disappear into safety while Ron, Harry and the rest went in on the guy.
It was an anticlimactically easy catch.
Mister Fabrizio was stunned and put into a cell for Jones and Baumanis to process him and Harry received a rather enthusiastic one-armed hug from his friend that almost wasn’t awkward, so he was kind of happy as they went to get lunch.
It was the first day in weeks that Harry was outside at daylight. The first calendar quarter was growing closer and he wanted to have an empty desk when the new started, so he’d been mostly holed up in his office only rarely taking trips to the caféteria and the communal showers. It was surprisingly sunny for a March day in London and him and bumped their shoulders and talked about the Cannons vs. Harpies game on the following Saturday while they made their way to kebab store down the street.
It was still a little chilly, but the rain had long stopped and behind the little stall they were protected from the wind. The sun had already some strength and made Ron’s skin glow in stark contrast to the dark hair as pale as he was after the winter. Harry almost forgot his own food watching his friend relish in the taste of the filled bread, white sauce dripping down his fingers and leaving stains on his coat. There was something on the back of his tongue. fizzing unknown words that his mouth didn’t know how to form.
Something about the tightness in his chest and a well-known heavy knot in his stomach.
“Your food’s gonna fall down!”
laughed Ron who had finished his lunch already. Licking his fingers clean as he eyed Harry’s kebab with growing interest. Harry growled threateningly as he hunched protectively over his meal.
Ron might be the person he loved the most on this stupid planet, but that did not mean that he was going to give up his food for him. Hastily wolfing down the bread in one go made him cough and his chest burn even more.
Ron snorted and rubbed his back while his body convulsed to get crumbs out of his windpipe. Maybe coughed a little longer than he had to and maybe he leaned in a bit more too...but it was nice.
As he peeked though his shaggy hair (he really should have gone to get a haircut months ago) for a quick flare of sunlight illuminating his friend’s face he imagined kissing Ron.
Not a new thought and he knew well it would pass as soon as he’d busy his mind with other things.
Ron was leaning towards him as they sat on the little wooden bench behind the shop. Close enough for they garlic breath to mingle and he just had to push his chin forward a little like so and their lips would touch.
Ron’s hand lay loosely between his shoulder blades. Big and warm and probably leaving greasy paw prints on his uniform coat. It had been a long time that he allowed someone to touch his back like that. The buzzing noise of the city around them seemed rather muted and there was a rumbling crescendo in his ears as he watched Ron nervously licking his lips.
“thanks.” Harry rasped, his voice still hurting a little from previous coughing fit huffing out a shaky laugh. Anything to get this heart from fluttering anxiously in his ribcage and his skin from crawling like burning salamanders. The redhead smiled back rather stiffly before bringing some more space between them and turning his head towards the sky. Ron decisively sucked in a breath filled with the smell of fry fat and mumbled unintelligibly in his knitted scarf before coming to his feet thus breaking the spell.
His friend was unusually quiet on their way back to the Ministry. His smile not given as abundantly and his sarcastic comments a little delayed. He seemed a little melancholic but their conversation stayed pleasant.
Harry knew himself well enough.
Over the course of a minor concussion, a family drama and a bar fight he forgot about his wants and went back to business as usual. Ron obviously also had decided to chalk it off to Harry being weird and overworked and had gone back to a murder case that he had to present in front of the wizard gamot in a few weeks.
Harry assumed it was a mix of the closeness and trust between him and his best mate and the distrust and disinterest for most other people that sometimes made him want to lock his friend in a room and bury himself in his smell and taste so he could feel how warm and alive he was.
The thoughts came and went and sometimes he allowed them to stay a little longer but most of the time there were more important things to deal with and if he learned one thing during his chaotic youth it was that it didn't make his life happier if he dwelt upon things he couldn’t have.
He tried going out after the break-up with Ginny, but he just couldn’t convince himself to care enough for any of the women he’d tried to date. Most witches he met were more into his name and quickly backed off when they noticed how much he was married to his job and he had a difficult time fitting in with muggles.
Probably he was just too broken to want or sustain a relationship but sometimes he just felt a little lonely.
And Ron was always there.
Chapter 5: Blood and rainbow glitter
Idly Ron fiddled with the cigarette in his hands as me mustered the dancing folk around him. One of the hosts of the party had sprinkled some magical glitter in his hair and it made him feel kinda itchy. Hopefully there was no contact charm in it. Even though he wanted to forget his life for a bit that didn’t mean that he would want to wake up with a couple of half trolls the following morning.
To be honest Ron wasn’t sure if it had been such a great idea to come here. Most of guys here didn’t interest him much. They were young and carefree but a little bland and he rather not do anything he’d regret afterwards.
For him this was a safe place though. Here he didn’t need to wear the straight mask and no one really cared if his type didn’t have boobs. Also, some control-freaky part of him wanted to make sure he still knew his way through the community and could stop bad stuff from getting too bad.
Ron always called out his two best friends on their Hero complex, is if he was much better than them.
It was probably best to tell Seamus that if he started to act out of character lock him somewhere safe or side-apparate him home in case the glitter stuff was actually potent. He didn’t move though.
He watched Seamus dance with a bloke that probably just barely passed the age restriction at the door.
He ordered another beer.
Then changed the order to rainbow fairy piss, an iridescent rainbow coloured drink of terror that was probably the most disgusting thing he’d drunk in his entirely life. And he’d still nightmares from drinking Vincent Crabbe’s Polyjuice.
He ordered a dozen and Derrick, one of the other wizards his age drank four. Maybe.
Ron stopped counting.
Derrick lost his shirt and shoes. You could see the scars from the war back when he’d been caught by snatchers. Ron forced the memory of hoarse scream and burned flesh away in the darks of his conscious.
He didn’t want to remember.
Neither wanted Derrick, so they compensated with some weird potion that made him feel like walking on really fluffy cinnamon clouds. Ron had the suspicion they came his brother’s workshop. There was something distinct weasley about the orange-freckled liquid.
Fairy piss was gone so they went with dragon dong, similarly colourful but slightly more enjoyable.
Glasses came and went and Ron was at least forty percent sure he didn’t order them.
Timothy, one of the barmen, clocked out and joined their table.
Ron had helped him once with a very persistent ex. He didn’t pay for anything else that evening and stopped remembering the names of all the stuff that went down his throat.
If he wouldn’t know the people behind the bar he’d probably not drink any of that sparkly stuff. They knew who he was though and not to mess with him. He was a regular since Derrick took him with him after his break-up with Hermione.
People started to be really open with their business. Ron didn't want to be a witness of the regret that a lot of the blokes would have once they grew soberer so he convinced his little group to go to the backyard of the little family home. As soon as the door was closed the sudden absence of the thundering bass made the silence feel heavy like a blanket.
Ron lid another cigarette and leaned in against a giant geranium pot and blew out the purple smoke.
“You know that stuff kills you.” noted Derrick looked into the clouds. The first rays of the early April sun coloured them on a golden peachy colour.
Ron shrugged. Worst things than this have tried. Including himself.
“Things would be much easier…” he muttered and with dry laugh.
Who was he fooling? As long as Harry and Hermione were breathing, he wasn’t able to go. They needed him.
Derrick snorted a laugh. He knew.
The birds were loud as hell and it was way to bright when he stumbled through the front door. He accidentally broke a few glasses until he found the sober-me-Kwik in his kitchen cabinet. It was his first off-day since weeks and he already knew it would suck.
Chugging the potion down in one big gulp, his brain started to catch up with life again. He thought about Fatin, lost somewhere in Pakistan ‘cause he couldn’t keep his bloody feet still for a few days.
He should have know he thought staring a few pictures right next to his kitchen window.
There was Sirius of course. Slightly swaying a bottle of fire whiskey in his lap and playing cards in his hands. All boyish grins but his face wrinkled way beyond his age. Ron held Harry though the nightmares that followed his death. Back then he’d been way too occupied with making sure Harry didn’t completely break apart. He didn’t feel like he had the right to mourn.
Absalom. Gentle but fierce. White-blond hair and beady black eyes. He’d been a Ravenclaw in Charlie’s year. One of the reasons why Ron wanted to become an auror. Probably the best bed companion he ever had. If a muddy hole in the ground counted as a bed. Died in the line of duty a few days before the war ended. If he’d just kept himself alive a 48 hours longer he’d have been safe. That was not how Abe was though.
Somsak, beyond smart. Hermione would have loved him. It’s a black and white photo and the light of the campfire flames is dancing over the face the man as he reads in thick leather bound book. Ron still doesn’t understand how such a brilliant man could have shown interest in him. He’d taught him a little Thai, they played chess and fought against giant crab monsters in South Iraq. He lost his life during an expedition in Macedonia.
Ron still sometimes heard his voice talking about the beauty of all creatures and the stars.
he’d never liked it when the teachers in Hogwarts talked about the night sky but Somsak made it sound like he should care more about it.
Amadi was still alive. He looked at the photo, the man had send this summer. A big man with an even bigger heart of gold and the angriest kind of love for his people. One of his duels had led him to lose his right arm and one third of his face. Ron had broken up with him after they both noticed that both were just too married with their respective job. Which in Ron’s case included Harry. Something a lot of blokes considered a big turn-off when it came to relationships.
He should have known Fatin would get himself into trouble.
Ron had a penchant for men that got themselves killed or life-threatening injured.
He cussed under his breath and started boil some water as his mind provided him with torture scenes and Fatin screaming in pain and distress.
His man sitting in a window-less room on dusty concrete hurt, hungry and alone and they mixed with Hermione being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange and the tiny overly populated basement he’d been put during his his short time in captivity during the war. He lid another cigarette and consciously forced himself to even out his breath.
Good thing no one was there to see Ron trembling and willing away the dark dots behind his eyes as panic waves washed over him.
At half past nine Harry’s patronus reached him calling him to urgent duty.
He was rather disgruntled since he’d actually just calmed down enough to take an early morning nap yet he obediently changed into his uniform and apparated to the Ministry fully aware that he looked like death had vomited him back into the world of living.
The Department was quite crowded and even more hectic than usually. Ron say his team packing and hurried to Harry’s office to ask for orders.
Harry just changing into his tactical uniform. He stared owlishly at Ron as he entered and nodded towards the desk. Ron patted his friends shoulder, feeling the exhaustion under the thin layer of the other man’s buttoned shirt before he made his way to the desk to sift throw the chaos of papers and documents.
As he started to gather the information he heard Harry talk about the newest developments in the case of the vanished mansion and they hastily tried their best figure out a plan. One of the undercover officers had located the mansion in a little village near Bristol (Which is not were a Scottish manor should be) and promptly contacted his superior. Ron tried to avoid looking as his friend as they talked. He was way to tired to have his walls up Seeing how Harry, for different reasons, looked like was about to pass out any moment was way too distracting for him to function properly without protecting himself in some way. It was too easy to fantasise about scoop the other in his arms and bring them both him. Safe. So they could finally sleep.
Merlin, he was so tired.
It was almost midnight when he was finally back at the department, which was now lacking one auror who was lying in the morgue as the on-duty experts checked for any dangerous curses before letting him enter the family. Ron sat next next to the young holding her hand and crying with her.
Roberts had been their mentor and trainer when they started. It felt like losing a dear uncle.
Slowly the mother, siblings and a few close friends came in and the finally were allowed to enter the morgue.
Ron had seen a lot of mourning people.
A lot of bodies of people between 2 days and 95 years old that died of unnatural causes.
He never got used to it.
It always felt like someone wrung out his heart and only left a wrinkly numb raisin. The widow was pretty calm she cried and talked to Roberts, which was laid on a table in all his dismembered stillness. Ron got a few documents signed and, after assuring they could find him if he was needed, went upstairs to give the family some privacy.
The Community office had already emptied a lot since he’d gone to talk with Roberts’ relatives and the remaining officers sat quietly in small piles between the cubicles, some of the with smaller wounds and curse marks from the fight, some of them still shocked by the images they came across after they stormed Whistlebee Manor.
His team had ordered pizza and someone had organised paper cups of stale beer to toast on their fallen comrade. Ron barely remembered when he’d eaten for the last time. For a moment the smell of greasy cheese and burned batter made him feel a little sick. He squeezed himself between Baumanis and Ramón as he took the cup of beer that was given to him.
“You’ve got rainbow glitter in your hair, boss.” grumbled Ramón with a shaky grin. He looked so young and hurt that Ron felt like wrapping him in a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and telling the boy everything would turn out just fine.
A big fat lie.
Nothing was fine.
Everything was broken and sad and Ron couldn’t do anything about it.
This was my off-day.” huffed Ron and took a slice of peperoni pizza.
As hew munched in silence he counted the injuries in his own team as well as the other officers around. The big injuries were already brought to St. Mungo's, but there was still voices and light spilling from the healer’s room into the dark community office.
He almost choked on his pizza when he noticed that Harry was missing. He instantly opened his mouth to ask for the whereabouts of his friend, however got disrupted by Baumanis.
“He locked himself in. Down in training room D. Looked like was about to lose control over his magic.” the blond Auror said quietly and her pale eyebrows disappeared under her bangs.
There he was on his feet again. His blood-covers auror robes billowing behind him as he made his way down to the training facility as fast as he could,
“Open the fuck up, Harry!” he rasped loudly drummed against the locked door and kicked it for good measure. A took what felt like a lifetime for his friend to crack and finally open the door.
Harry looked like an wrath. The dark hair and shadowed eyes were contrasting eerily with his pale skin that stretched way too tight over his skeleton-like features.
They didn’t talk.
Ron locked the door behind him and sat down on a bench to watch Harry punch a sand sack until his knuckles bled. It was a miracle that he could still move like that the redhead thought as his eyes wandered over the fat-less bare back of his partner. It seemed like the bones of the boxers was only held together by sheer willpower, skin and sinews. He hadn’t seen him without a shirt in a long time. His spine was sticking out of his back like dragon spikes.
It wasn’t just Roberts. This job and their attitude towards their duty was killing them.
They weren’t just good at their job. This was bordering on self-destruction.
Again and again Harry’s fists thundered against the canvas until they finally stopped and there was silence again. The man’s head hang too low to read his expression and the gaunt shoulders were raised helplessly like clipped wings.
“Harry...” muttered Ron gently and then after his friend didn’t react “Mate.”
“Lets get you in the shower.”
His hand in the vulnerable space between the shoulder blades he lead him towards the communal showers gestures him to shower stalls.
“get in. I’ll bring you some clothes.” he explained his fast exit and hurried the apparition area. He didn’t want Harry to fee uncomfortable for his gay best made watching him shower. Though, to be honest, Harry never seemed like he cared about something as trivial as Ron’s sexuality.
In the last years it appeared like Harry didn’t care about much at all.
When he came back after a trip to his apartment and Harry’s house, his arms full of fresh cloths, Harry was still sunken on the bench. For second Ron thought he’d fallen asleep.
“Mate, I can’t shower for you and cleaning charm make you feel all itchy.” he grumbled and dropped the clean clothes next to harry on the wood.
Keeping his eyes strictly on the others face he urged him to undress and into one of the stalls. “Please don’t make me come in there to help you….” he whispered more to himself and to his lucky Harry actually closed the curtain and turned on the water.
“Don’t drown.” Ron croaked maybe a little angry and undressed himself before stepping in the cube next to Harry’s.
For the short moment before the warm water hit him, he asked himself when he’d become Harry’s caretaker in a literal more than in a humoristic sense.
He pushed that thought back down, where the war memories and the disaster of his marriage with Hermione lived right next to five (possibly) dead exes and image of being hunted by a giant spider.
“’m hungry.” mumbled Harry from outside the shower.
When Ron turned of the water he was already in his jeans, smelling less rancid and looking more like a human being. Without shame Harry’s eyes travelled over his naked body and made him feel weirdly exposed despite them having undressed in front of each other for decades.
Ron felt his ears grown heated and red and hurried to get dry and dressed.
“I think there still some Pizza upstairs.” he replied way to late.
“I don’t like people right now.”
Since most of the their usually food sourced were already closed Harry ordered them some McDonald and they took them in brown paper bags to Ron’s home.
Ron healed Harry’s knuckles and Harry put some ointment on a fresh curse mark that had singed the flash at Ron’s nape. Ron hadn’t even noticed up ‘til that point that he got hurt.
Afterwards they ate mushy burgers and rubbery cold fries as they listened to a rerun of a preliminary game for the world cup this summer. Ireland against Uganda.
Watching in the darkness, their legs tangled and his mouth full of slightly disgusting burger, Ron was sure he loved Harry.
It wasn’t that he liked that his friend was underweight and his looks weren’t even that great. He was old beyond his years and had never learned to live instead of barely surviving. It wasn’t the surface level that he liked about Harry and he’d gladly do without mothering his friend.
It wasn’t even the daily interaction that made him feel feel so warm inside and almost hopeful inside.
He just had learned so early to love this raven-haired midget with his knobby knees and dumb jokes that he just couldn’t fully give his heart to anyone else even if he tried.
He just sat there and watched the Harry relax against the cushions of the couch and how his head got heavy with exhaustion and he finally succumbed finally to sleep.
If you’d ask Ron, Harry with all his power and issues and his urge to sacrifice himself for others, was the one human being could never be without.
There was nothing that could take that away from him. Even if he had to force him to shower and sleep and stuff him with food for the rest of his life as of he was his mum and not his best mate.
The thought swelled in him like warm, home-made bread and settled in his bones like a sunny day at the lake.
Even if his feelings was hopeless it felt weirdly good to have them and know that he was similar important for Harry even the other wasn’t into him like that.
With a sigh he turned of the radio and nudged the sleeper in a more comfortable position.
In the door way he stopped for a moment following the impulse useless as it was and he threw a last gaze over the silhouette of his friend.
“You know, mate. You’re a bastard for using me like that.”
Ron didn’t expect an answer. Actually he rather wouldn’t want to burden Harry with even more remorse.
“Harry...” he breathed and it felt somehow unexpectedly liberating “I love you.”