The Burrow was so miserable that most days Harry had a hard time convincing himself to go. It was only out of obligation that he would join the Weasleys, sit in a stiff kitchen chair as they ate in near silence. They might have won the war, but their losses had been so great it was hard to call it a victory.
The warm, comfortable feeling Harry had always felt with the family who took him in as their own had dissipated. The faces of the family who loved him, loved him most in this world no longer seemed kind. They never said it, never hinted at their belief that what had happened had been his fault, but Harry knew. He would never stop carrying the guilt of what he had cost them.
When he got home, always the first out the door, Ron and Hermione would join him in the drawing room. The three of them would pile onto the couch, bodies touching, legs intertwined, hands slowly roaming over each other’s bodies providing physical comfort. They wouldn’t ask how he felt, drawing him in close with them and stroking his hair. Their fingers felt cool against his hot skin.
“They hate me,” Harry muttered into Ron’s chest.
He wasn’t quite sure when the shift in their relationship had happened, but it now felt natural to have his face pressed against his best mate’s chest, Hermione arms wrapped around his middle. The war had erased their physical boundaries with one another, blurred the lines of what behavior was allowed.
“They don’t hate you,” Ron assured him. Harry could feel his deep voice vibrating his chest as he spoke. “They’re worried about you, they don’t know what to say.”
“Maybe I should stop, give them time to grieve without me there,” Harry mumbled.
“That wouldn’t do you any good Harry,” Hermione said softly. “You can’t just live the rest of your life holed up here with us.”
“I like being holed up here with you,” Harry answered, his face flushing at this small concession of his heart.
Hermione gave him a warm smile, reaching over to take his hand in hers. “You have to keep living Harry. We can’t be your whole life.”
After a month of refusing to unlock his door, George began to allow people into his room during the day. When Harry would stop by to visit, allowing Molly to pile his plate with food he didn’t have an appetite for, someone was always sitting with George, reading to him or telling him stories. Ginny, who somehow seemed to be handling all her grief the best, would be the only one to get him to smile. Harry would join them, sitting in the windowsill and listening to Ginny tell stories from the room of requirement at Hogwarts.
“You would have loved it, George,” she told him with a twinkle in her eye as she recounted the month-long prank war she had waged against the Gryffindor boys. “I managed to turn their hair purple for a week.”
When Harry found himself alone with George, neither of them had much to say. There was no pressure to talk, to recount stories of those they had lost. Harry found their silences comforting. He knew where George’s thoughts were, on a future that would never come to be. Harry’s thoughts were there too. They would lounge, side by side, staring out the same window but neither of them felt quite as alone.
The first time it happened, Harry felt so sick with guilt afterward he managed to make himself ill. He shamed himself for wanting them like that, felt like he was taking advantage of their situation. For days he refused to see them. He stayed locked in his room, in the room where they had touched him in the soft evening light, their shapes blurred and not quite solid. He didn’t see how they could ever look at him again. Not after that.
Especially not when all he could think about was how good their hands had felt on his skin, how solid they had felt when their lips were pressing against his, their tongues in his mouth, the memory of watching them move together as one. Their legs intertwined, hands on hands, bare skin on bare skin. Harry wished he had never realized how perfectly they all fit together.
But when the third day passed, and he couldn’t stand being alone any longer, they showered him with apologies.
“It’s always been the three of us, Harry,” Hermione assured him, her arms wrapped tightly around his middle as he sobbed into her shoulder.
“We’ve dealt with enough strange things mate,” Ron whispered in his ear, his chest pressed against Harry’s back and his arms holding him tight. “Let this be a good thing.”
Harry let them stay with him, sharing in his bed. Where at first their relationship had been confined to the drawing room and daytime light, they never left him after that. Always there, joking and talking with him and making their shifting relationship feel as natural as it could. When Harry’s days were bad, they would sit with him in silence, stroking his hair and listening to him read. It was how they formed some semblance of happiness after the war that had stolen from him everything good.
“Everything feels so different now,” Ginny commented as they walked beside each other back from the orchard where they’d been flying.
“Yeah,” Harry said noncommittally, unsure exactly what she was talking about. Everything felt strange to him, even things which should have felt normal like a hot meal or a shower.
“I’m sure it’s worse for you, with Ron and Hermione.” Ginny trailed off and Harry could feel her watching his face carefully.
“Yeah,” he grunted, nervous that he’d reveal something he shouldn’t have. The secret felt ready to burst out of him.
“Tell me how it happened,” Ginny continued her voice light.
“What?” Harry asked, looking over at her, unsure of what she meant.
“The two of them, getting together.” Ginny clarified.
“Ah,” Harry said, relieved that she had asked something he could manage to answer. “It was right after you left the room of requirement, Ron asked about getting the house-elves out and Hermione sorta launched herself at him.”
He found himself smiling fondly at the memory. “They went on for a time and, er, I asked them if it was the time and Ron said, “Alls fair in love and war and this is a bit of both.” For a prat, your brother had his moments.”
Ginny chuckled. “You’re telling me they really didn’t get together until then? With all that time the three of you weren’t accounted for?”
The smile faded from Harry’s face. “It was just the three of us, I suppose they didn’t want to do anything that would distract from our mission.”
Harry didn’t know what he’d done to deserve friends like them. They’d always sacrificed for him, right up until the very end.
“Everyone knew they were in love for so long,” Ginny said, wiping her face and facing forward. “I can’t believe they wasted so much time.”
“Have you thought about taking down the curtains?” Hermione asked one morning as Harry still blinked the sleep from his eyes.
She was dressed, sitting up in the bed beside him and staring at the windows critically.
“Haven’t given it much thought,” he replied, still a little dazed.
“Blimey Hermione, he’s just woken up,” Ron told her, his arms still around Harry and laying down next to him. “Just because you’ve been awake doesn’t mean he has. Give him a moment before you start bossing us around.”
Hermione glared at him. “I’m just saying, it feels a bit like a mausoleum in here. Besides, he shouldn’t just lay in bed all day.”
“And why not?” Ron argued, “You seem to enjoy being in bed with us.”
Harry could picture the blush on her face even as she spoke. “Ronald.”
“What do you have in mind?” Harry asked, turning over and stretching towards her.
She allowed him to lay his head in her lap and began running her fingers through his hair, all bitterness gone from her voice. “If you take the curtains down, get Kreacher to help clean the windows, it will be so much brighter in here.”
Harry knew she was growing restless, staying in the house all the time. He had missed the in control, bossing them around Hermione. It felt like they were back at school and she was lecturing them about their homework. It felt normal that Hermione would be reminding him what needed to be done next while Ron tried to entice him away from work. That’s how it’d always been with the three of them.
Before the school year started, George began joining the family for dinner again. His eyes were still haunted and he looked rather wasted away, but he was no longer holed away in his room where the light couldn’t touch him. The dinner table started to feel complete again, conversations no longer slow and painful. There were still empty chairs, but with George in the room, the gaps felt smaller. Harry gravitated towards him, indulging in the buffer it put between him and Ginny. It now felt like she had an agenda whenever they spoke. Harry didn’t have the heart to tell her he was falling in love with her brother, tell her he was stealing yet another thing from her.
“How’d you convince yourself to leave your room?” George asked him when everyone else’s heads were turned in conversation.
This seemed like the surface question to a much deeper problem.
“When Voldemort first came back, I convinced myself no one else could understand how I felt. No one else was in my position, no one had taken from them what had been taken from me that day in the graveyard.” Harry paused, looking around to ensure they weren’t being overheard. “But Ron and Hermione stuck with me. Even though they didn’t see Cedric die, even though they weren’t with me to understand what I had seen, they helped me share my pain.”
It was painful to think back on it now. Painful to think back then it had felt like nothing would ever compare to that pain when he’d still so much left to lose. “Everyone has been through something so awful that they can’t imagine being okay again. No one knows my pain any more than they know yours. But we both know what pain feels like.”
He didn’t feel like what he’d said was particularly well put but George seemed to understand all the time. He nodded thoughtfully, settling back in his chair and gazed at his family.
“It’s never going to be the same.”
All Harry could do was nod.
“Do you think it’s selfish?” Harry asked boldly in the evening after returning from the Burrow. They had resumed their usual positions, occupying each other’s space on the couch. “Not telling them?”
Ron paused his longing stare at Hermione and shifted his gaze over to Harry. “Selfish?”
“Do you think it’s selfish, keeping this from them, not letting them know about—“ Harry couldn’t find the right word to finish his sentence.
“Do you want to tell them?” Ron asked.
“They’re your family Ron,” Harry replied. He’d hoped Ron would have a more decisive opinion on this, not leave it up to him. Ron was still staring at him, waiting and Harry continued to nervously talk. “This feels right, and if I tell them everything's going to change.”
Ron shrugged. “It’s up to you mate. It won’t change anything for me. If you’re not ready to share with them what we have, then I don’t think you should worry about it.”
Telling Harry not to worry about the thing he’d been agonizing over hardly solved the problem.
“Why don’t you want to tell them, Harry?” Hermione asked.
“Because I don’t think they’ll understand,” Harry said after a moment of thought. “I don’t think they’ll really get it, they’ll just think that I’m being selfish or something.”
“You are being selfish,” Ron quipped and then yelped when Hermione swatted at him. “What? He is, we all are.” He made a face at Hermione. “But if it’s going to make you feel guilty or something I don’t think you should. What we have is working. It was always meant to be the three of us.”
When he joined the Weasleys on Sunday, flushed with the memory of Ron’s tongue in places he’d never once thought about a tongue going, the thoughts of telling them were stronger than ever. He could feel every eye on him as if they knew there was something going on. As if they could read his mind and see into his memories. It felt wrong to keep this from the family who loved him dearly. Wouldn’t they of all people want to know of his happiness?
Just as the moment came when it was about to burst from his mouth, unable to keep it in any longer, Bill stood. He raised his glass, the room fell silent.
“Before we start to eat I wanted to take notice of this day. Today marks six months since our victory. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of what we lost.” His watery eyes gazed over at George who was stony-faced, knuckles white on the table. “But I am also thankful each and every day that we were able to win, that we are now able to live our lives in the open, able to celebrate with one another.”
Bill beamed down at Fleur, putting his hand on her shoulder. She was smiling proudly at her husband.
“We wanted to share our news with all of you,” he said with a sniffle. “And today seemed fitting as a day worth celebrating. We’re pregnant.”
The room erupted at once, people clamoring out of chairs to hug the happy couple, shouting their congratulations and sniffling tears of happiness. Harry felt rooted in his seat, watching as those who he loved fawned over the happy couple. Tears had sprung to his eyes, not of joy but of jealousy. For the announcement he would never make. For anyone raising a glass to the day that had ruined him. With as much deliberation as he could, Harry rose stiffly, exiting the room and disappeared before anyone could stop him.
The days leading up to Christmas were some of the most miserable Harry had ever experienced. It felt unfair to have any cause to celebrate when there were so many empty chairs at dinner tables all across the country. When he shared these thoughts with Ron and Hermione as he prepared for bed one evening, Ron had shrugged.
“You’re alive mate,” Ron replied, fiddling with a piece of Hermione’s hair. “You have to celebrate for those who aren’t.”
“It just doesn’t feel right,” Harry sighed, falling in beside them and laying his head on Ron’s chest. “Not like this.”
“We’re here Harry,” Hermione assured him, kissing and then stroking his cheek.
“I can’t keep relying on you for forever,” he admitted.
It was the truth none of them named. They only existed inside his house, inside this tiny little cocoon he’d concocted. Outside of the home, he was alone. Each and every day spent with them felt more like a farce. They stared at him with pity but didn’t contradict him.
“We’re here for you mate,” Ron told him tenderly, scratching Harry’s back with long strokes.
“For as long as you need us.” Hermione finished.
Though the decorations were hung and the Christmas tree was picturesque, Harry found it hard to be joyful on Christmas Eve. He wasn’t alone in his brooding, the rest of the Weasleys seemed to be going through the motions of putting together a holiday. The only light came when Teddy and Andromeda joined them for dinner, physically filling a gap at the table.
Logically, Harry knew that Teddy would hardly remember his first Christmas, but with his Godson to protect, he joined the rest of the family in singing songs and telling stories of years past. Wine was poured and the laughter became organic and more frequent than the sniffles and tears.
For a few moments after dinner, listening to Cestelina Warbeck on the wireless, Harry closed his eyes. The smells and sounds of laughter made it feel like life before the war had ended them. Nervously he twisted the ring on his finger and when he opened his eyes, Ron was winking at him from beside the fireplace, Hermione’s arms wrapped around him as they gazed fondly at the family they’d loved so dearly.
When they made their way home at the end of the night, Harry had insisted on not needing a bed at the Burrow with a promise of returning first thing in the morning, Ron was the first of them to cry. Hermione clung to him, wiping away his tears and whispering words Harry couldn’t quite hear. Harry felt selfish in his own grief. He hadn’t lost what Ron had.
“You’re miserable,” Harry observed, looking up from his book to find them both staring off into space.
Neither of them replied, shifting their heads in unison to look over at him. A week had passed since Christmas. Every time Harry woke Ron was crying or else talking to Hermione in a low voice about his family. Harry had known Christmas Eve was a lapse in judgment. He’d always been careful to keep any hint of them confined to his home. Being with them was one part of his life. His relationship with the Weasleys was another.
“We’re here for you Harry,” Hermione told him tenderly.
“For as long as you need us,” Ron finished, but Harry could see the disinterest in his eyes.
“If it wasn’t for me,” Harry said slowly. “Would you want to be here?”
Hermione and Ron shared a significant look but left his question unanswered.
That night, Harry didn’t seek them. He closed Sirius’ door firmly behind him when he got ready for bed and lay underneath the covers trying to sort out his thoughts. He stayed up for a long time, staring up at the ceiling while the guilt gnawed at his stomach. In the morning they greeted him with easy smiles but there was no apologizing for what had been said. They lingered around him all day with easy conversation. The feeling that Harry should have never started this was stronger than ever.
He had thought it would be less painful, continuing after the war had ended. Provide himself time to grieve their lost relationship while clinging to some selfish thought that they’d never consider leaving him. Perhaps it would have been easier if he’d just let them go after the battle ended.
After the first of the year, Harry sought out George in the flat he had once shared with his twin. George had just barely taken up residence back at his old home. When he announced it at Christmas, that he was ready to start living like Fred would have wanted him to, there hadn’t been a dry eye in the room.
“Thinking about re-opening?” Harry asked as George showed him around the dusty showroom floor.
“Yeah,” George said softly. He was a man of few words now. It was the only company outside his home Harry could bear to keep. “It’s what Fre— it’s what he would have wanted.”
Harry realized how cruel the universe had been to make the thought of his twin’s name painful.
“Angelina’s been coming around,” George said casually, running his finger over a box, leaving a trail in the layer of dust. “She’s not afraid to talk about him like mum and dad are. It makes it feel like he’s still real.”
A lump in Harry’s throat made it hard to respond.
“Do you have anyone to talk to?” George continued when Harry did not answer.
Harry shook his head. “I don’t think I’m ready to talk about it with anyone else.”
“I didn’t think I was either,” George answered in the same casual voice. “But it helps.”
Harry didn’t like this line of questioning. He was already finding it hard enough to be out of the house and away from them. “What do you need to open back up?”
“You already gave us our seed money,” George said with a wave of his hand to dismiss the idea. “We don’t fancy having to change the name to Potter’s Wizarding Wheezy’s. Doesn’t run off the tongue.”
It was the first joke Harry had heard out of him and for a moment, it felt like Fred was there, finishing George’s sentence. They broke into weak smiles.
“No really,” Harry insisted. He felt a need to give his money to George. He couldn’t share with him the thing that would make him most happy. The least he could do was help him here. “After everything that’s happened because of me.”
“You didn’t take anyone from us, Harry,” George said in a now concerned voice. “You destroyed the man who did. We should be owing you for it, not the other way round.”
Harry nodded and didn’t turn away while he composed his face. “I want to help and I have more money than I’ll ever dream using. Besides, Potter’s Wizarding Wheezy’s has a ring to it.”
He was rather proud the weak smile was due to him this time around.
“This isn’t working,” Harry said in the dim morning light when their blurred shapes looked most real.
He hadn’t been able to sleep, spent the night staring at them as they lay stiff on either side of him, gazing off into space without rest.
“Harry?” Hermione asked, rolling to face him. She looked concerned as he sat up.
“I know it’s not, I know you’re both miserable,” he continued, trying to keep his voice flat. “I know this isn’t what you wanted, you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me needing you.”
Ron sat up beside him, reaching for his hands which Harry snatched away.
“Mate,” Ron croaked, sounding disappointed. “What are you saying?”
Harry’s eyes were burning and when he opened his mouth it took a second for a sound to come out. “I love you both so much, but it’s clear neither of you are happy here. It’s selfish of me to make you feel that way.”
“Harry,” Hermione said, her eyes swimming with tears. “Harry, we love you so so much.”
“I know,” he answered, wishing he could reach out and wipe the tears from her eyes. “I know you love me, alright?”
That was what had taken him so long to come to this conclusion. Their love for him was not in question, it had never been a question. He was standing in the way of what came next for them, a future that couldn’t include him.
“It if was just about how much we love each other then—“ he couldn’t finish this thought.
“Mate,” Ron said in a wounded voice, reaching for him again and settling by putting a strong hand on his knee. “You don’t have to do this.”
“We don’t have a future,” Harry said, willing his voice to be steady. “We all know it’s only a matter of time before you are both so miserable you can’t even talk to me. I can’t sit here and watch that happen.”
“It doesn’t have to be like that,” Hermione insisted. He glanced at her and tears were now streaming down her face.
“George is moving on,” Harry said. “Molly doesn’t burst into tears every time I walk in the door. Everyone is managing to move on and I’m stuck here, in the same place I was a year ago with the both of you.”
“Harry,” Ron croaked again.
“You said that you would stay with me for as long as I needed you,” Harry said, echoing the words they promised him every time he was upset. “I’ll never figure out a way not to need you as long as you both are still here.”
“Harry,” Hermione whined, “Harry please.”
She looked completely miserable. Harry felt his convictions waiver and he reached up to stroke her face, wanting to comfort her.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered back, sniffling as Ron’s hand pressed over his, sandwiching his skin between theirs. “I have to do this.”
“We love you,” they said together and when they reached for him he didn’t resist.
“I love you both,” he echoed, wrapping his arms as tightly around them. “I love you both so much.”
He allowed their arms to surround him, hold him tightly with their not solid forms. When he closed his eyes they almost felt real. He didn’t know for how long they stood there, tangled with one another as he began to sob, mourning the painful loss which he would finally have to fully realize.
“I’ll see you again,” he told them, wiping his eyes on his selves as they slowly disentangled.
Ron’s arms were already wrapped around Hermione when Harry looked up at them.
“Take your time mate,” Ron told him seriously, “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“If you ever need us, Harry,” Hermione said, and he nodded. “Promise us you’ll try and find happiness.”
“I promise,” he whispered, drawing up his trembling hand.
He looked at them for a long moment, memorizing them as best he could. With bravery he didn’t know he had, Harry removed the stone set in a ring from his finger and watched as they disappeared.
The house was quieter with them gone. With no one to talk to, Harry found himself leaving his refuge more and more. More often than not Harry found himself at George’s shop, helping him restock and finish the formulas that had always been in his head. Angelina was there before him most days and her laughter made the room feel brighter.
“Talking helps,” Angelina told him when she caught him staring at a picture of the Weasley family they had taken while at the Quidditch World Cup. “It makes them feel alive.”
Harry didn’t quite think it would be polite to tell her he was more interested in realizing what he had lost than making it feel like they were still there. Ginny had returned from her last year at Hogwarts with offers to play for a dozen teams.
“Mum says you still leave the room whenever someone mentions Ron’s name,” Ginny said matter of fact while they sat in the garden.
Harry felt the urge to stand at once, to run away, but forced himself to stay in his seat. “I’m the one who got him killed,” Harry finally managed, forcing himself to name the feelings he’d been ignoring. “I don’t think I have a right to talk about him.”
Ginny made a noise that was a mixture of disbelief and pity. Harry couldn’t bring himself to meet her eyes and instead began picking at a thread on his jeans.
“Harry,” Ginny said firmly, reaching over her hands to grip his and forcing him to look up at her. “No one but yourself blames you for what happened. You were his best friend. No one doubts how much the three of you loved one another.”
Harry found tears in his eyes and wished to look away but found her round eyes enchanting and couldn’t bring himself to.
“They would have wanted you to find happiness Harry,” Ginny murmured. “They wouldn’t have wanted for you to suffer alone.”
The lump in his throat was making it difficult to breathe. “If they hadn’t been my friends they wouldn’t have died.”
“Oh Harry,” Ginny whispered, “That’s not it, that’s not it at all. You didn’t ask to be apart of the war, the war came to you when you were just a child. They didn’t die because they were your friends, they died because they were brave and smart and there was an evil wizard who was hell-bent on destroying our way of life.”
Harry didn’t try to hide his wet eyes from her. “Will you stay with me?”
“For as long as you want me.”
It had been six months since he’d last turned the stone thrice in his hand. He kept it on his person at all times, heavy in his pocket where he could run his fingers over the cracked stone he’d crafted back into a ring. He told himself it was just in case he really needed them. He always needed them. They were his future that never got lived.
Ever since he’d stopped using the stone he’d contemplated what to do with it. It seemed it’s rightful resting place was the strip of land between Ron and Hermione’s graves on the edge of the Burrow’s property. It felt selfish to let it go without giving someone else the same gift he’d been given.
“Harry,” George said in surprise when Harry wandered up into his apartment sometime after closing. “I thought you’d gone, is everything alright?”
Harry tumbled the ring between his fingers for a moment before pulling it out and laying it flat in his palm.
“I’m going to lay it to rest,” he told George. “After you’re done with it.”
Curious, George took it from Harry’s outstretched hand and examined it. At the Deathly Hallow symbol, his eyes went wide. “Harry, how did you—?”
“Turn it in your hand three times,” Harry said. “He won’t look exactly real but he’ll feel real when you close your eyes.”
Instantly George’s eyes were wet but alight with hopeful amazement. His hand trembled as he looked over at Harry.
“Make sure you’re alone when you use it,” Harry told him.
George was still staring at the ring as Harry let himself out.
“Oi!” echoed a voice from the fireplace. “Can I come through?”
Harry, who’d dozed off midway through writing a letter to Ginny, jumped at the sudden appearance of George’s face in the fireplace. Waving his wand to lessen the protective enchantments, he motioned him through. George stumbled out, looking as though he hadn’t slept since they’d last met. His eyes were swollen and red, but he wore a happy smile on his face. Harry prepared them both drinks before joining him on the couch.
“Ron asked about you,” George said at once, “Wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“How was he?” Harry asked stupidly, but George understood all the same.
“I always wondered how you managed to be so stoic after you lost them, made me wonder if you ever loved them at all,” George said, pulling the ring from his pocket and pressed his thumb against the Deathly Hallows symbol. “Ron cleared a few things up.”
Harry nodded, his throat tight as he stared at the ring. He itched to hold it, turn it over in his palm and summon them again. With someone else in the know, he knew he couldn’t comfort himself with them again.
“And Fred?” Harry asked softly.
Instantly George’s eyes were flooded with tears. He looked at the ring for a moment more and then set it on the coffee table in front of them. “Looked just like I remembered.”
“How can you just give it up?” Harry asked of him, feeling his own convictions wavering. “He was—“
There didn’t seem to be an appropriate word to summarize their relationship.
“He was,” George agreed with a nod. “Harry if you’d given this to me back then I wouldn’t have ever taken it off. But I’m not the person I was when I lost him. I’m just glad he was the first person I was able to tell the news.”
“The news?” Harry repeated stupidly.
“Angie’s pregnant,” George smiled at him. “Baby boy.”
Dumbstruck, Harry stared at him. “Congratulations.” He managed when he realized his mouth was still hanging open.
“Fred was the first person I got to tell,” George said. “I never thought I’d live a day without him, but I was able to tell him about what’s next for me. He was so happy. Made it feel real.”
Harry was unable to resist one last temptation with the ring back with him. Knowing someone else was in on the secret, knowing he would be unable to summon them whenever he wanted without George’s accusing eyes, he decided he deserved a final time before letting them go.
They were unsurprised when they appeared. Briefly, Harry considered asking if they were given a warning before being summoned, but the question died in this throat before he could get it out. They were just as he’d remembered them, though two years had now passed since the last time he’d used the ring. The marks on their bodies from their last battles had never healed and while he felt as though he’d aged ten years since the final battle they were as young and vibrant as ever.
“Hey,” he greeted them with a catch in his throat. His eyes were streaming with tears at the sight of them.
“Hey mate,” Ron said, the first to move, offering his arms to Harry. “Long time no see.”
The moment he stepped forward they reached for him, their cold but familiar touches surrounding him and making him feel less alone. He wanted to ask how they’d been, what had happened to them in the space of their time apart but he knew it was a foolish question.
“You look good Harry,” Hermione said, cupping his face with her hands and looking at him earnestly. “A little older though.”
Harry nodded, his mouth unable to decide whether to smile or frown.
“How’ve you been?” Ron asked, his low voice in Harry’s ear. “Did Angelina have her baby?”
“Yeah,” Harry said proudly, “Baby boy, named him after Fred.”
He could feel Ron’s smile and his small noise of approval. They stood in companionable silence, arms wrapped around each other. There was a blissful peace to being in their presence once more.
“Why’d you call us here Harry?” Hermione asked, her eyes still studying him.
“I’m getting married in the morning,” Harry told them, suddenly feeling flushed at the prospect of telling the only other people he’d ever been intimate with that he was settling down. “To Ginny, it felt wrong for you not to know.”
It took them a moment to get over their shock but when it wore off they were showering him with well wishes.
“Blimey,” Ron said. They’d separated slightly now, still touching, but no longer pressed together. “My baby sister and my best mate.”
“You’re okay with it?” Harry asked, craving his approval.
“Does she make you happy?” Ron asked back.
“Yeah,” Harry said at once. “She’s not afraid to talk about you guys, makes you still feel real.”
He looked down at Hermione now who had proud tears in her eyes.
“You should be there,” he said, a catch in his voice, “tomorrow.”
“We’re here now,” Hermione whispered, pulling herself closer to him again.
Ron took this as his cue to wrap his arms around them both, sandwiching Harry between them. “For as long as you need us.”