They hold hands for the first time a few weeks after the end of the war, the jubilant high of defeating Voldemort already tempered by grief and loss.
Harry's seen so many people die that he isn't sure he has it in him to celebrate the nightmare being over. Not when the days keep passing in a hellish blur of funerals.
He thought he might fall apart during Tonks and Remus' joint burial; another father figure dead and gone, the last of the Marauders laid to rest. Their son, Teddy, is so small in Andromeda's arms as they stand together in the cemetery; another orphaned child. Harry lives with that particular ache and he couldn't wish it on anyone, let alone his godson.
Now it's Fred's turn, and if Harry thought Remus and Tonks' funeral was hard to get through, it is nothing on this. Seeing the jovial, energetic Weasleys so subdued by their sadness makes his chest twinge painfully. He can't even bring himself to look at George. His expression is an open wound, too raw for Harry to stomach
Ron is sitting beside him on the bench, eyes fixed intently forward, his body rigid with tension. Harry knows that things have been particularly rough for him, dealing with his loss and the things he's seen and done, all while trying to comfort an increasingly hysterical Molly Weasley. Harry has watched him struggling to stay strong and he feels completely powerless to help.
Mr. Weasley gets up to speak, and the sea of red around Harry quivers, heads bowed and shoulders trembling with the force of their sorrow. Ron's hands clench tightly and he presses his fists against his thighs. Harry watches out of the corner of his eye as Ron practically curls into himself, trying to fight the overwhelming emotions.
Wanting to help, needing to offer some sort of comfort, he moves his hand to rest around Ron's closed fist. Ron flinches slightly at the contact but he doesn't pull away, and Harry takes that as a sign to continue, loosening Ron's firmly curled fingers. Staring straight ahead, Harry links their fingers together and squeezes Ron's hand, trying to convey all his love and support and friendship with that simple gesture.
A beat later, Ron squeezes back, some of the tension leaving his body, as silent tears begin to stream down his face. Harry ignores the fluttering in his stomach. There's no room for something like that now.
It's been almost a year since the end of the war and things are more...settled. Harry went straight into the Auror Programme and he and Ron got a flat together after Ron, deciding that he'd had enough darkness in his life, joined George at the joke shop.
Hermione had returned to Hogwarts to make up their lost year and they still see each other frequently, though it's weird not having her around all the time. She and Ron had tried to make a go of it, but it quickly became clear that they just weren't suited, just as it had been for him and Ginny. Harry still feels bad about the rush of relief he'd felt when they'd told him it was over. He tells himself it's just because he didn't want the dynamic to be ruined, but he's not all that convincing.
Now, Ron and Harry are sitting on the floor of their living room, passing a bottle of Firewhisky back and forth between them. Neither of them have dates, so they might as well get drunk together.
Harry's feeling loose and relaxed, alcohol rushing warmth through his veins. There's a fire burning in the hearth, and the flickering light keeps catching on Ron's hair, the strands glowing red-gold. Shadows dance across Ron's skin, and Harry's eyes follow them everywhere, drinking in all the details. Ron brings the bottle to his lips and takes a deep swig, throat bobbing as he swallows, lips shiny with alcohol as he sets the bottle down. Harry can feel the blood rushing to his cheeks and his cock, and he turns away abruptly, staring into the flames.
Ron groans loudly and in his periphery Harry sees him casually grope himself, his blush deepening at the sight.
"Fuck!" Ron exclaims. "I always forget how horny alcohol gets me."
Harry chokes on air. "What?"
Ron turns towards Harry, giving him a wide smile. "Alcohol, Harry. Jus' makes me wanna get off, you know?" He's not quite slurring, but his words have a soft, rounded edge to them.
Harry's already alcohol-dizzy, but Ron's words make his head spin, the world coming in and out of focus.
"Erm, yeah," he responds, not sure if it's quite a lie. Because his prick's pushing up against his trousers, telling him he definitely wants to get off right now, but he doesn't think it's just the alcohol.
Ron looks at him a moment, like he's trying to work something out, and suddenly he lights up, swaying slightly.
"We could help each other out!" he exclaims, and Harry can't do anything other than stare at him with wide eyes, mind incapable of processing what Ron has just said.
"I mean, we're mates. Best mates! And friends help each other out, right?"
"Um, yeah, I guess?" Harry responds. He still isn't totally sure what's happening. In fact, he's beginning to suspect he's actually fallen asleep in the living room and this is some kind of alcohol-induced fantasy.
"S'no big deal," Ron continues blithely, making his way over to Harry, the short distance taking forever with his drunken lack of coordination. "Just two blokes, lending each other a hand."
"Okay," Harry breaths out. He's too drunk and he wants Ron too much to try and convince anybody this is a bad idea.
Ron climbs unsteadily into Harry's lap, leaning back against Harry's knees and placing a hand firmly on Harry's crotch. Harry lets out a hiss at the blissful pressure, arching his hips up into it.
"No kissing, or foreplay, or sweet words, jus' getting off," Ron mumbles happily, fumbling with Harry's trousers, the simple task of undoing the button seeming to be beyond his current motor skills.
Harry's hands slide up the firm muscle of Ron's legs. He wants to get his hands on Ron while he has the chance. The alcohol seems to be magnifying every nerve ending and each slide of Ron against him makes Harry shiver. He can't think beyond the brush of Ron's hand on his cock, and right now this is seeming like the best idea either of them has ever had.
It's fast and hot and sticky, the pleasure rushing through him like a freight train, leaving him sated and exhausted, barely able to cast a cleaning charm. Ron passes out almost immediately, just slumping right over on the floor, and Harry's too drunk from alcohol and orgasm to do anything other than throw a blanket over his prone form.
He climbs blearily onto the couch and closes his eyes, the thought of trekking all the way to his room not even worth contemplating.
And if he dreams of kissing, and foreplay, and sweet words, Ron never needs to know.
It's April. The flowers are starting to bloom, the weather is warming up, and things are still a bit awkward between Harry and Ron. A few months have passed since the incident that shall not be spoken of and they are both pretending that nothing has changed.
The problem is that it's obvious, to Harry anyway, that they are both pretending, because things have changed. They're still best mates, they still spend time together and talk and joke and laugh. But there are fewer casual touches, no discussions of sex or relationships. They're both just a little too careful around each other, like there is something fragile between them that might break with the wrong word or movement.
Harry wonders if he's the problem, because Ron may have initiated things that night but Harry is the one who wanted more. Who wants more. And he worries that maybe the reason things have felt off is because Ron senses his feelings. Harry knows Ron doesn't see him like that, and he doesn't want to risk the best friendship he's ever had just because he can't keep his feelings in check.
He hasn't dated at all since Ginny. He needed time and space to heal after everything that had happened during the war, and then he got caught up in Ron. But Harry wants to things to go back to normal between them, wants to forget about his silly crush so he can just be Ron's best mate again. So when Hermione asks if she can set him up with one of her new friends, he says yes.
A few weeks after the incident he'd finally told Hermione that he thought he might like both genders. She had been weirdly excited, chattering on about broadening horizons and possibilities. She tells him that she's befriended the cute, gay clerk at the Hogsmeade bookstore, and she's convinced that he and Harry will get along swimmingly.
Harry dresses in one of his nicer outfits and heads towards the door, halting when he hears Ron's appreciative whistle.
"Where are you off to, dressed like that?"
"I, uh, I've got a date," Harry mumbles, realizing that he never told Ron, and not sure if that was intentional or accidental.
"Good for you, mate! Who's the lucky girl?" Ron asks, and his voice sounds a little strained, but Harry is sure that is just wishful thinking on his part.
"Um, bloke, actually. His name's Sean. ‘Mione set it up."
Ron looks a little speechless, and Harry wonders if maybe he's just made things worse, coming out like that. Maybe knowing that he likes blokes will make Ron even more uncomfortable, make him wonder if Harry was a little too into things that night.
"I should go, actually; don't want to be late. I'll see you later," Harry says in a rush as he walks out the door. His stomach feels heavy, and he's not sure if the nerves are anticipation or dread.
The date is uneventful. Sean is perfectly nice; he's attractive, easy to talk to, and doesn't seem to care about Harry's fame. In short, he's perfect, but not for Harry. Because all Harry hears are jokes that aren't as funny as Ron's, and all he can see is dull brown hair where he wants to see red. Harry is polite, but Sean quickly picks up on his lack of enthusiasm, and after a few flat attempts at flirting he seems content to settle for a friendly meal. They part ways quickly after dinner with no promise of a second meeting.
Harry heads home, disappointed that his plan to move on has already failed so spectacularly. He's so focused on his introspections that he barely even registers the trip back to their flat, surprised when he looks up and finds himself in their living room, facing an agitated looking Ron.
"How was your date?" Ron asks, stopping his pacing and suddenly turning to face Harry. His hair is sticking up a bit like he's been running his fingers through it, and his blue eyes look a little wild.
"It was fine I suppose. Nothing special."
"Are you going to see him again?"
"No. It -" Harry breaks off, unsure how to proceed when they've been avoiding talking about this kind of thing for months. "There wasn't any spark." I don't know if I can want anybody but you.
"Good," Ron responds decisively, his eyes suddenly hard with determination.
Before Harry has a chance to ask what that means, Ron walks right up to him, cups his cheek firmly, and kisses him right on the lips.
Harry kisses back.
Honestly, everything has been going so well, and it surprises Harry how little has actually changed between them. They're still them and the only thing that's really different is now they get to have mind-blowing sex with each other.
There is just one thing that's been bothering Harry: nobody knows they're together.
Ron had asked to keep things quiet at first while they saw where things went. And with the Prophet's obsession with both of them, Harry had quickly agreed.
But it's been three months and the strain of keeping such a big secret from their friends and family is starting to get to him. He's tried to broach the subject a few times with Ron but he has a hard time pushing the issue; he doesn't want to start a fight when he can tell Ron is so reluctant.
They're going to the Burrow for Sunday brunch tomorrow, and Harry wants to come out. They're Ron's family, and Harry's too really, and he wants them to know because a part of him feels like this isn't real until somebody else confirms it. How can they last if they spend their life hiding?
He broaches the subject at dinner and Ron is immediately against it. Something in Harry snaps. Because maybe he's gotten this all wrong. Maybe Ron isn't keeping this quiet just to give them space to grow. Maybe he just isn't as serious about them as Harry is.
"Are you ashamed of us?" Harry asks. "Of me?" he adds quietly, the hurt and budding anger evident in his tone.
"What? Of course not!" Ron is quick to defend.
"Well then why can't we tell anybody?" Harry presses. "I'm not saying we need to alert the media, but I'd like to be able to talk to the people we care about." Harry takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. "Is it because I'm a guy? Or because you don't think we're serious and you don't want to tell people we're just screwing around?"
Ron looks flabbergasted. "Is that what you think? That I'm afraid people will think I'm gay? Or that I'm not taking this relationship seriously?"
"I honestly don't know what to think." Harry feels exhausted and the fatigue is obvious in his voice. "I -- I care about you, and I want to make this work, really work. I want to hold your hand in front of your parents and kiss you when we go out with our friends, and tell everybody why I've been so happy these past couple of months. But if you don't want that too, I think you need to tell me."
"No! I mean, of course I want that stuff. And I'm not ashamed of us. That's not it at all!"
"Then why? Because I'm getting a bit tired of hiding."
"I always planned on telling them. But you've met my family, haven't you? Nosey buggers, the lot of them," Ron pauses, running his hands through his hair. "Then we've got your history with Ginny, and mine with Hermione, and all of our friends who have seen us grow up together as best mates. They'll be all over us. Mum'll be planning our wedding, the guys will all take the piss, and everyone will be asking when it started and how long we've known and it --" He breaks off, looking embarrassed, his cheeks flushing bright red. "It wouldn't be ours anymore. It'll belong to everybody, and I've been sharing things my whole life. I just wanted to have you to myself a bit longer."
A knot in Harry's chest loosens and he lets out a relieved sigh, reaching over to squeeze Ron's hand.
Then they're kissing and groping and planning. Ron agrees that, yes, it's time to tell his family, and Harry suggests telling the whole family at once, tomorrow, to get it over with. Like ripping off a plaster.
Harry's a bundle of nerves as soon as they agree. Whereas, in surprising contrast, once the choice is made Ron seems to be completely fine, like all he needed was to make the decision, and the rest is easy.
"You're sure you're ready?" Harry asks, as they walk towards the bedroom - their bedroom - and Ron's hands are steady as they cup his face, leaning in to kiss him deeply.
This holiday season has been a busy one, and it feels like they haven't had more than a handful of moments alone together.
It's their first Christmas together as a couple, but between work and friends and family, it hasn't seemed that different from all the other holidays they've spent together. Which Harry prefers, because they've never needed big romantic gestures between the two of them and Harry sort of loves that they've managed to settle into them so easily.
It's snowing outside, and they've just come from a Saturday dinner with the whole Weasley family. They walk part of the way back, wanting to get some fresh air, and as soon as they get to their flat, they strip off and dive into bed together.
Harry's head is against Ron's chest as he watches the snow fall outside of their window in the moon-bright night. Their legs are tangled together, Ron's cold feet pressing against his calves, and everything is hushed save for their soft, slow breaths.
"Harry?" Ron whispers suddenly, breaking the silence.
"Yeah?" Harry replies, flipping over onto his stomach and propping up onto his elbows so he can look at Ron.
"I - I just wanted to say," he breaks off, looking nervous. "You know how I feel about you, but I've never said it, and you deserve that. You deserve to know how much I love you."
Ron is blushing furiously, and he seems a bit uncomfortable with the emotional outpouring, but he also looks determined and sincere. Harry's heart is pounding and he's a bit overwhelmed by the flood of emotion as a silly grin takes over his face. Because he knows Ron loves him, he's known for ages, but he hasn't heard those words all that often in his life and hearing Ron actually say them is...everything.
"I love you too," he responds, simply, because that's all there is to say, really.
And then that's it, they're kissing fiercely and Harry's somehow on his back, Ron's warm body curled over him.
Harry's hands are on Ron's waist, sliding up to his ridiculously broad shoulders and then back down to his arse. They're both in boxers, and with some quick maneuvering two pairs of pants are thrown onto the floor.
The air in the room is a bit cold when Harry's arm darts out of the toasty cocoon of blankets to grab the bottle of lube, thrusting it into Ron's hand.
"Want you to fuck me," he breathes in between kisses, and Ron nods eagerly.
Ron prepares him quickly, dripping lube onto Harry's thighs in his haste to slick his fingers, sliding one, then two into Harry's eager hole. He relaxes into it, opening up for Ron's hand and panting into his mouth.
Then the fingers are gone and Harry feels the slick head of Ron's cock nudging at his entrance. He bears down, his legs hitching up around Ron's waist and drawing him in. Ron groans long and low, placing his hands on either side of Harry's head as he sinks all the way in, pausing only a moment before establishing a deep, steady rhythm.
Harry's cock is hard against his stomach but he doesn't touch himself, content with the full, blissful feeling of Ron moving inside him.
Ron shifts slightly back, cock still hard in Harry, and grabs his hands. Kissing Harry sweetly, he links their fingers together and brings them against the mattress by Harry's head, lowering his body snugly on top of Harry's and settling into a slower, more sensual pace.
Harry's surrounded. Ron's mouth is hot on his, his hands are pinning Harry down, and every movement of Ron's hips drags his stomach over Harry's hard cock. It's almost too much pleasure and Harry can't stop thinking about the fact that this man loves him.
Ron whispers Harry's name, and that's all it takes to push Harry over the edge. He's spilling messily between them, come smearing across both of their stomachs. Feeling Harry's orgasm, Ron picks up his pace, thrusting furiously for a few moments before groaning into Harry's mouth as he comes.
They stay like that for a while, Ron still inside of him as they kiss lazily, hands roaming over each other's bodies, just needing to touch.
Eventually though, the mess gets to be too much for even Ron to stand, and Harry grabs his wand to cast a quick cleaning charm over the both of them before snuggling back into bed.
He feels warm, and safe, and Ron's wrapped around him tight. It's perfect.
Harry watches the snow fall outside their window as he falls asleep.