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"Where Most It Promises"

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One thing Ron had always had in common with Ginny was a half-hidden love of Muggleania. It was hardly surprising, growing up in Arthur Weasley’s household, that some fascination with the ways of Muggles would seep in, and although, like any good teenager, he made a great show of rolling his eyes at his father’s uncool fixation on fuses and ketchup wrappers and eckeltricity, Ron really did enjoy his little visits to the world without magic, where problems had to be solved with brute force and clever trickery.

Being with Hermione, and with Hermione’s parents, only made him more interested, and he’d sit on their firm-but comfortable sofa, Hermione on one side of him, Dr. or Dr. Granger  on the other, watching movilies on their VDV player, drinking in a strange world where things like guns and cigarette lighters and cars and aeroplanes filled in as best they could for wands and brooms.

So he knows exactly what Ginny’s talking about, sitting across the table at the Three Broomsticks, when she says, “What Willy Wonka said? About the boy who got everything he wanted? Willy Wonka was wrong.”

Ron really enjoyed that VDV, the crazy way Muggles tried to imagine what a magical world might be like, the sweet madness of the curly-haired Muggle in the suit he could have borrowed from Dedalus Diggle. He remembered the ending of the movie, the soft, sad eyes seeming to warn the young hero to beware getting everything he wanted, before surprising him by telling him, “He lived happily ever after.”

But now Ginny’s sitting opposite him, her eyes sadder than Willy Wonka’s ever were, a year after getting everything she’s always wanted – already under contract, hand-picked by Gwenog Jones, to the Holyhead Harpies, and living with the Chosen One, the Boy Who Lived, the boy she’d dreamed of since before she met him – telling Ron that Willy Wonka had been wrong. Even when you’d got everything you want, there was no promise of Happily Ever After.

“I thought if I just hung in there, he’d see,” Ginny says softly. “Maybe not immediately, maybe it would take months, but sooner or later, it would have to click, right? Sooner or later, he’d have to notice me.”

“I’m pretty sure he noticed you in Sixth Year, Gin,” says Ron. “I seem to recall him snogging your face off in the common room. For that matter, I seem to remember him spending most of a year looking at a dot on the Marauders’ Map with your name on it.”

She laughs, quietly and without humor. “And that was probably how I should have stayed. A dot on a map. An idea. A memory.” She takes a draught from her tea. “And how he should have stayed, too, I guess, a hero on a distant quest, far away saving the world.”

“What, you’re disappointed he’s only human? Merlin’s arse, Gin, that’s–”

“Oh, don’t be a prat, Ron!”

Ron scowls. “Well, what, then? Merlin, Gin, what are you even talking about?”

“I’m talking about you, you pillock!” At Ron’s expression, combining bafflement and affront in approximately equal portions, she reaches across the table and whacks him, almost playfully, up the side of his head. “Not you you!” She gestures with her hands around his head, causing him to back off warily in case of further violence. “You! Both of you! The two of you! You!

It doesn’t really help, though: Ron’s baffled expression remains.

Ginny rolls her eyes. “Ron, do you remember the day Harry beat Voldemort?”

“No, Gin,” Ron deadpans. “Completely slipped my mind seeing Hagrid carrying him, all limp an’ slack, while that snake-faced bastard crowed and gloated. Totally forgot Mum killing that crazy Lestrange bitch an’ Neville lopping the head off the snake. I mean, it’s not like I saw my brother die that day or anything!”

Ginny bites her lip, looks down at the table, and when she speaks again, her voice is very quiet. “Yeah, well, what did Harry do after he cacked Voldemort?”

Ron looks blankly at her.

“I’ll tell you what he did, Ron. He got under his cloak, and walked right past me like I wasn’t even there so he could get to you two, and disappear into who knows where.”

Ron goggles at her. “Are you effing kidding me? You’re here whinging that me and Hermione are, what is it, monopoly-fying Harry? Are you really saying that? We’re hardly together but every couple of weeks!”

And instantly, Ginny’s on her feet, her fists on the table, leaning across to get right in his face. “And that’s the only time he comes alive, Ron! That’s the only time he’s really there!

Ron sits back, eyes wide, as Ginny sinks back into her seat.

“Look,” she says. “It’s not like he’s a zombie. It’s not like he’s mean. He’s sweet, he’s affectionate, he’s attentive, he’s respectful. When we make love he’s generous and gentle and appreciative.” She pauses, ready to scoff at Ron if he reacts childishly, but he simply watches her, his face very still. “But it’s nothing, Ron, I’m sorry, but it’s true. Even when we’re in bed, it’s nothing next to how he is when he sees you two. I love him, Ron, but I love myself too much to settle for being second place.”

Hermione gasps. “What did you say, Ron?”

He sits back on the sofa, eyes wide, head shaking slowly. “What could I say? Merlin, Hermione, I’m not even– I don’t– I mean, what would you have said?”

Hermione stands up and steps over toward the kitchen, but stops in the doorway, one hand on the frame. Beyond her, the orange streetlights shines through the curtains on the kitchen window, the cheerful blues and reds and yellows shading into darker greens and purples as they gleam in the nimbus of her hair.

“I... I don’t know,” Hermione finally breathes. “I don’t know.”

They're lying together, legs still tangled, Ron’s orgasm seeping from her, cool and sticky on her thigh, his hand clasping and releasing hers.

“What did you think?” she asks him softly. “What did you think, Ron, the first time?”

His smile starts as cheeky, but as he regards her, it transforms to something altogether more tender. “I thought it was the most amazing thing that ever happened. Not ‘to me,’ just happened, full-stop. I thought you were so unbelievably nice, just to be letting me. Letting me see you, letting me touch you...” He reaches over, fingertips feather-light down her cheekbone. “Inviting me into all those secret places you’d never share with anybody. I felt...” he pauses a moment, staring into nothing, looking for the word, then surprises her as he sometimes does with le mot juste, that perfect storm of speech and thought that seems so unlike him, but says exactly what it should. “I felt privileged.

Something simultaneously explodes and melts inside her, as if, behind her breastbone, she has somehow managed to combine one of Fred & George’s fireworks with a long draught of hot chocolate. But she keeps her eyes on her ginger boy, knowing that there’s more to come.

“I thought about Harry,” he finally says. “I thought, wait ‘til Harry tries this! I tried to tell myself I meant with Gin, but I know I didn’t. Sex is you, you know?”

She looks at him, curious, amused, but only her eyebrows ask for clarification.

“I mean, it’s not, you know, something in the world, something that other people have. I mean, you know, I know that other people fuck! But.... But that’s just other people fucking. It’s not the same. They have fucking. I have fucking Hermione. It’s not the same thing at all. An’...” He draws in a breath. “An’ I thought how great it would be when Harry fucked you, how we could compare notes and share how great it is to fuck you.” He gulps, and hurries on, as if forestalling a scolding, “I mean, you know, I know it sounds awful, like I think this– like I think you’re a Chocolate Frog card I can just pass around. You’ve gotta understand, thinking it, it wasn’t all long an’ solid an’, an’ considered. It was just, it was almost a feeling, it was automatic, you know. Something good happens, I want to share it with my best mate. Like when Honeydukes came out with those Chinese Fireballs. This is great, Harry’s gotta try this!

He lies back, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry, Hermione.”

They’re silent for a while, and Hermione suddenly speaks. “I dreaded the end of the war.”

Ron looks over at her, thinking how awful it was for her, how terrifying the world had become. He was a pureblood, after all. He could have lived in Voldemort’s world. But Hermione, Muggleborn, he knew it had looked to her like the whole world had become a nightmare, her own, personal nightmare, a terrifying perversion of the world that was aimed with deadly malevolence, directly at her. How could she have dreaded the end of that? Had she feared that they’d fail?

“When you left,” she said, as if in explanation, “it was so awful. We were so broken, the two of us, nothing was right without you. We just flailed about like a snake with a broken back.”

“I’m sorry, Hermione.” It’s all he can say, all he can be, when his abandonment of them arises.

She reaches over and strokes his face. “No, Ron.” She shakes her head, dismissing his guilt as if he’d never betrayed them. “I... Once you were back – and I was over wanting to hit you – I felt.... We were whole again, Ron. I was whole again. I was with my boys. Whole.”

Silence settles over them, then, like a blanket. Through the curtains, distant street-lamps shine here and there, gentle orbs of golden light that just barely give the interior shapes and solidity and a comforting warmth.

The question feels like cold fingers around his heart, but Ron asks anyway. “D’you fancy him, Hermione? D’you fancy Harry?”

Seconds tick away in silence. “I’m here with you, Ron. I’m where I want to be. Does it matter?”

“Yeah,” Ron says, after a few moments of silence. “Yeah, it does. Gin can’t settle for coming in second.”

She rolls over then, onto him, staring into his eyes in the filtered lamplight. “You are not coming in second! You are not! Don’t ever say that! Don’t ever think it! There is nowhere on earth I’d rather be than here in this bed with you! Do you believe me?”

He looks back up at the faint glints of her eyes in the shadows of her brows, her wild hair cascading around their faces like a very soft avalanche. “Yeah,” he finally says. “Yeah, I believe you. It’s just.... It’s hard sometimes. Hard to believe a girl as amazing as you would even be seen with me.”

“I want to take your hand and get up on restaurant tables with you, and snog you senseless standing up there so the whole world can see my ginger boy, so the whole world can see how lucky I am to have such a sweet, smart, funny, wonderful, beautiful boy.”

Ron slumps in relief at her words, and she lets herself down atop him, her breasts flattening against his chest, her hair draping over his face, and as he reaches up to brush it aside, she murmurs into his ear, “Yes, I do, rather. I’m sorry, Ron, but it’s true. I do fancy him. Not more than you, not instead of you, I just.... I fancy Harry. I’m sorry.”

The words tear through him like an electric flood of ice water, and he jerks involuntarily under her. Remember what she said. Remember what she said.

Her hands are in his hair, and her mouth finds his, passionate, desperate, and when they part, her lips brush against his ear as she murmurs, “I love you, Ron, I love you and I always want to be with you, and that’s not going to change.”

He squeezes his eyes shut, feelings roiling inside him. He feels like he should shove Hermione off of him, storm away, shouting. He’s the jealous berk, after all, who betrayed Harry and Hermione both out of fear that they wanted one another more than him.

Fuck that!” he snarls aloud.

Language, Ron!” Her scolding is automatic, traditional, seeming to him as pro forma as his impulse to jealous rage. And, after a beat, she proves it: “Fuck what?”

He takes her by her shoulders, lifts her until he can see her eyes, and she sits up, her breasts pale and round in the moonlight, her eyes still on his.

“I’m not doing it anymore, Hermione.” His voice is rough. “Being jealous? Being afraid you wanted Harry? That fucking Horcrux owned me with that! It might as well have had my balls closed up inside it! I won’t do it anymore, Hermione. I just won’t.” He dropped his head back. “One time, I heard Fred telling George – I guess Angelina was letting some bloke from the Finches try to chat her up – I don’t care where she gets her appetite, as long as she eats at home. Harry’s the fucking Hero of the Age, and a decent bloke into the bargain, and why shouldn’t you fucking well fancy him?”

Hermione smiles down at him, eyebrows raised. “My!” She brushes his hair away from his forehead and cocks her head. “As simple as that?”

Ron snorts with laughter. “’Course not! Are you mental?” he pauses, smiles wryly. “Never mind, ’course you are.” He reaches up to run fingers down her cheek, her neck, her breast. “Anyway, I’m freaking out, of course! I’m just not letting it run my fucking life. He’s Harry and you’re you, and if I can’t trust the both of you, what do I even have?” His thumb slides absently across her nipple. “So I’m just going to fucking accept the fact that you’re here, sitting on me, naked with my jizz leaking out of you, and what the fuck else can I ask for?”

She squirms against him, the fluid of her sex and his smearing on his abdomen, as she traces her fingers over his face. “I will never dishonor you, Ron.” The words are as soft as a spring night’s dew, the vow as solid as iron. “I will never break faith with you.”

He smiles, then. Sometimes, most times, he feels like he hasn’t grown at all from the first time she saw him. Still a gangly eleven-year-old with a smudge of dirt on his nose. But sometimes, some rare moments, he feels as old as time and wise as Dumbledore.

“I know you won’t,” he tells her.

When she opens her mouth to answer, they hear the gentle crackling of the living room fire – it was so difficult, Ron remembers, for Hermione to relax and accept that it was safe to leave a magical fireplace in another room, untended while they slept – roar in that familiar, raucous manner, and it’s no surprise to see the green in the firelight reflected from the hall, and she’s already sliding off him, reaching for her wand while he sits up, as soon as they hear Harry’s voice, hesitant, a little unsteady, calling, “Ron? Hermione? Are you up?”

Their expressions as they glance at one another are complicated: knowing sadness for Harry, lingering uncertainty about their own discussion, but a base level of contentment to hear his voice, to know that, when in need, still and always, Harry turns to them. Hermione’s wand swirls in a silent cleaning spell, and her sex and Ron’s are expunged, from their skin and their bed, as Ron grabs their robes, tossing the creamy rose silk of Hermione’s to her as he calls, “Just a mo’, mate, we’re coming!”

Harry looks beaten and tired as he gazes out of the flames of the fireplace at them. “She left me.” He shakes his head. “Well, no, technically, she kicked me out.” He frowns at that. “Well, no, technically, she told me it was over, and then left for a road trip with the Harpies. Not really much like kicking me out, to be honest. But I need to leave.”

“You’ll stay here, of course.” Hermione’s words are calm and even, and Ron follows up, “We’ll go back tomorrow for your stuff, just come on through, mate, and stay with us.”

“No, really,” Harry begins.

Hermione interrupts him with a firm “Don’t be stupid!” while Ron reaches down with one hand, saying, “Come on, mate, you were just dumped by my sister, that’s no time to be on your knees.”

He shakes his head again. “No, no, I couldn’t.... I mean, it’s late, I’m sorry, look at you, I got you out of bed. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have Flooed. I’ll–”

“Oh, shut up, you wanker!” Ron’s half-laughing as he gestures with that offered hand. “You know you can’t stay there. Come on through, mate.”

Harry reaches through the flames to take it, and Ron pulls him through and up, steadying him with a strong hand on his shoulder.

As soon as Harry is steadily upright, Hermione is against him, arms wrapped around him, head pressed against his shoulder, and he bows his own head as his arms come up, and buries his face in the crazed outburst of bushy brown hair as he squeezes her.

It’s not that Harry doesn’t feel smooth, bare skin under the breath-thin silk of the robe. It’s not that he’s unaware of of the breasts flattened against his chest or the slender, resonantly female body in his arms. It’s not that she doesn’t feel wonderful, and it’s not, to be brutally frank about it, that he’s not hard within about four seconds. But Hermione is Ron’s, not his. Ginny was his, and he somehow fucked that up. Now... Well, he doesn’t know what’s now. He doesn’t even care, really. He just angles his hips a little, so as not to press it against her, and pulls in her warmth and her sympathy and her love, and he pretends for a moment that there’s some way for him to live in this strange new world he doesn’t understand where nobody’s trying to kill him.

After a moment, he looks around for Ron, holds a hand out to him, and Ron takes his hand, and Harry finds himself momentarily amused that Ron can hold his hand and give him comfort, and there’s somehow no question of it being “gay” or effeminate or in any way – Harry smirks as the silly word occurs to him – “unsound.” Just strong fingers wrapped around his, firm, solid, powerful. And Harry is as comforted, as supported, as reassured by those long, rough fingers as by Hermione’s embracing arms and warm curves.

“C’mon,” Ron murmurs. His tone is soft and sweet enough to shock anybody who knows him casually; it’s even a little surprising to Harry. He steers them over to the couch, both he and Hermione staying close to Harry, as if ready to physically support him, like an injured soldier leaving the field of battle. They sit on either side of him, Hermione burrowing against him as if it’s she who needs comforting, Ron, at his other side, with a casual arm across his shoulders, fingers playing with Hermione’s hair.

“You want to talk about it, mate?” asks Ron, after a few silent minutes.

“Not really,” says Harry.

Hermione, muffled with her face pressed into Harry’s chest, makes an inarticulate sound of despair, followed by what may be an attempt to say, “Boys!” But her small hand rubs circles on his belly, and Harry knows her frustration is mainly for show.

It isn’t long, of course, before sitting in companionable, comforting silence devolves, and Harry’s head nods, Hermione’s bushy hair surprisingly soft against his cheek, and his eyes drop slowly as he slides into blessed darkness.

Hermione turns her head to smile over at Ron at the sound of Harry’s soft, almost childish snores, but his eyes are also closed, and his head tilting backward. Her smile deepens. Here with her boys: what could be better?

As Ron starts to snore, she shifts slightly, trying to get away from the corner of the wooden molding of the sofa’s arm. That could be better! She closes her eyes and lets her senses flow with her magic. It’s something she’s been working on in her spare time: wandless magic was far too difficult for any but the most powerful and difficult wizards, but, she reasoned, if she was able to do it as a child – she remembers her father’s consternation at finding his cheerfully disorderly bookshelves alphabetized, and battered, worn books restored, split spines healed, and dog-eared pages fresh and uncreased – then she ought to be able to do it now if she can focus on her wand at a modest distance, and focus enough to perform magic without grasping it in her hand.

She reaches out now through her vague sense of her own magic, carefully not concentrating on the bedside table in the next room, on the vine-wood wand, recovered from Malfoy Manor in the days after the fall of Voldemort, but allowing her awareness to wash gently over it, like a gentle incoming tide.

When she feels it, really feels it, she pictures her desire in her mind, and thinks – non-verbal magic being easier and more effective for remote-wand spellwork – Levicorpus!

Her boys rise into the air, hanging at about waist-height, and she stands and walks to the bedroom, the floating, snoring forms following her like well-trained dogs. Crookshanks, curled in a basket in one corner, looks up at them with moderate interest as they float by: There’s something you don’t see every day!

Once in the bedroom, she looks at her wand to bring them in for a soft landing on the bed, and, as she reaches for the tie of her silk robe, looks over at the two boys, snuggled like puppies atop the bedclothes, and allows herself to imagine dropping it to the floor, and worming, naked, between them. Two solid, male bodies, loving, gentle, affectionate against her.

Oh, she knows that to do so would be a mistake: Ron had miraculously put his jealousy aside as they spoke in post-coital languor, but she has no illusion that he would actually share her. And certainly Harry has never shown the slightest interest in her, romantically or sexually, his ill-disguised erection earlier, a mere physical reflex, notwithstanding. But it’s a nice little fantasy, and it surely does no harm.

She grabs a pair of plain cotton knickers, and one of Ron’s discarded Cannons tee-shirts. Harry’s trainers, none-too-clean on the bedsheet, draw her gaze. Those can go!

She sees in her mind what she’s going to do, and is properly scandalized, but it doesn’t stop her. She undoes the tie, slides the silk robe from her shoulders, tosses it into the wing-backed chair in the corner, and stands naked, looking at her sleeping boys. Ron knows she has a wild side, but even he would be shocked if he woke and saw this. Harry would be embarrassed and shy, wouldn’t know where to look. That would be priceless to see! But neither will wake: she recognizes the timbre of their snores. Naughty but safe. The perfect Hermione solution, Ron would say. She smiles at the sound of his voice in her head as she bends down, her naked breasts swaying, and unties Harry’s shoes, then slides them gently from his feet.

She squats down, places the trainers quietly on the floor, then stands again, very aware of her nakedness, looking down at the two of them. Then she slides on her knickers, and shrugs Ron’s shirt over her head. The hem hangs almost to her knees. She climbs slowly, carefully, onto the bed, and Ron reaches reflexively for her, making unintelligible noises as he pulls her over him to fit her – and Harry, still asleep, shifts to make room – between them.

She smiles, lying in the safest spot in the known universe, happily surrounded by her boys, and lets her awareness slide again over her wand.

Nox , she thinks, and the room settles into darkness, and, moments later, so does she.

It had been the the night after – actually the morning after – Fred’s funeral.

Hermione had been staying alone in her parents’ house and Ron had Apparated, at about one in the morning, into her bedroom. Tears had been streaming down his long nose and freckled cheeks, and she woke at the crack of his Apparation, sitting upright in her bed, staring with a cry of wild panic in the dark.

“I’m sorry, love!” Ron’s voice was choked with tears. “It’s me, I’m sorry, it’s me! I didn’t think! I should’ve, I dunno, fellytoned or owled or something. I’ll leave, all right?”

She was already out of bed, her flannel nightdress looking, in the mirror over her dresser, like a cartoon ghost in the shadows as she flew at Ron and embraced him. “No, Ron, it’s okay, you just startled me, it’s all right.” She peered up at his face, pale in the curtain-filtered moonlight. “Are you all right?”

“Not so you’d notice, no,” he replied. “Fred’s dead, how am I supposed to be all right?” He sucked in a breath. “Fred’s dead, an’ George might as well be his Inferus, an’ Mum’s always crying an’ Dad wants to but he can’t, so he’s just there...” He took another breath. “I had to get out.”

And just like that, Hermione had become straightforward and businesslike, pulling Ron by his elbow. “Come along then, Ron,” she said, leading him toward the bed. “You’ll stay here with me.”

She’d got his trainers and socks, belt and denim jacket off of him, left his jeans and tee shirt alone, and pulled him into bed with her, and held him while he cried.

It was the first night she’d really spent curled up in his arms, and the sense of him against her, needing her, was heartbreaking and heavenly all at once. He’d buried his face against her breast, completely unaware that he was pressing his face into her breast. And she’d stroked his surprisingly soft ginger hair, and cooed softly to him, and they’d both drifted together into sleep.

And she’d awoke again, a little after dawn, feeling him thrusting rhythmically against her. He was still asleep, but one of his hands was kneading her breast, still moist with last night’s tears, and he was thrusting a hardness in his crotch against her hip, a hardness she quickly realized was an erection. It was her first relatively direct experience with one of those, and as it skidded along her flesh, layers of flannel and denim insulating it from her, she’d felt both churning and lightness in her belly, and a growing pool of warmth.

So this will be it, she’d thought. Here in my childhood bed, the morning after Fred’s funeral, Ron and I will shed our virginity together.

Ron had awakened slowly at first, murmuring her name as he thrust more deliberately against her, his thumb playing with her nipple through the flannel nightie, and then his eyes had flashed open, staring in a combination of embarrassment and terror, and she had pulled his mouth to hers and kissed him thoroughly, and then sat up and said matter-of-factly, “Well, that’ll be enough of this,” as she pulled the nightie up over her head.

In the end, it was messy and sort of painful and way too fast, and it was maybe the best four minutes Hermione had ever spent.

Hermione’s dreams are seldom memories, but she wakes slowly to rhythmic thrusts up her bare thigh, and smiles. No mystery why I remembered that morning in my sleep! The denim slides against her bare leg, hardness under the cloth, and a strong hand has hooked around her hip, fingertips sliding up under the elastic opening of her knickers to rest almost on her bum.

She rolls her head away from the thrusting form, eyes slitting open to meet Ron’s blue-eyed gaze, merry and amused.

She jerks and spins, crying out in shock as Ron laughs, and finds herself facing a wide-eyed Harry, who throws himself back away from her so hard and so fast that he tumbles to the floor in a tangle of bedclothes.

Ron, behind her, is still howling. “Oh, fuck, Hermione!” he manages to gasp. “That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen!” He sucks in another breath. “Merlin, it’s Martin Miggs come to life, that is!”

Hermione’s starting to giggle as well, now, as the top of Harry’s head, and then his wide, staring eyes, rise above the edge of the bed. The green eyes blink myopically – well, technically, Hermione thinks, astigmatically – back and forth between her and Ron, and, after a moment, he manages, almost inaudibly, “You’re– You’re not mad?”

Hermione chuckles, and Ron says, still grinning, “Well, overlooking the sort of nauseating fact that you thought you were dry-humping my sister, no.”

Harry looks a bit guilty at that, and Ron laughs again, and that’s infectious enough that Hermione chuckles...but that expression of Harry’s, it’s not quite right. It isn’t, okay, you caught me guilty. It’s you didn’t quite catch me guilty. (It’s not that Harry doesn’t have an I got away with it face, he certainly does – that was half the reason Hermione had so taken against that awful book Harry’d had in Sixth Year! But with some people – her, Ron, the Weasleys, Professor McGonagall – Harry’s conscience bothers him when he gets away with something. Hermione’s not sure anyone else recognises that particular quirk of expression, that twist of Harry’s mouth – but she does!) She files it away to think about later.

Ron’s swung his legs off his side, and said, still chuckling, as he stands, “Anyway, mate, I’m gonna grab a morning shower. I trust you can resist my girlfriend’s charms ‘til it’s your turn?”

Harry’s face reddens, as Hermione snipes playfully at Ron, “Oh, that’s nice! Don’t I get to decide who gets a turn?”

Now Ron’s as red as Harry, and he ducks his head as he mumbles, “Turn at the bloody shower, I meant!”

Ron hands Harry’s clothes to Hermione before pulling the towel from around his own waist, and quietly enjoys the expressions playing over her face: the wry smirk at Ron’s having her ‘do the wash’ – although he’s honestly rubbish with laundering charms! – something a little more complicated at holding all of Harry’s clothes, and possibly even the thought of him naked under the streaming water they could hear through the door. There’s a lot churning in him at all that, too: the morning after Hermione’s admission to fancying Harry was a bit quick to be finding him rubbing one out against her thigh!

He starts to wonder if Hermione caught it, then smirks to himself. If she caught it? Hermione? Too right, she caught it!

Still, it’s as good a way to broach the subject as any, so, as Hermione lays out Harry’s things on the bed, he asks her, “You caught that with Harry, right?”

She looks up at him, and he’s pleased that her gaze pauses on his willy before she nods. “I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”

“Well, you wouldn’t, would you?” Ron’s pulling on fresh boxers, grabbing a pair of jeans from the chest of drawers. “Your secret crush, the Chosen One, humping your leg like a dog? What’s to worry?”

Hermione’s brows come together over the bridge of her nose. “Is this the new plan, then, Ronald? I was honest with you, so you’re going to throw it back in my face for the rest of my life?”

“Ah, fuck, Hermione–”

“Language, Ron!”

“Yeah, yeah.” he looks seriously at her as he fastens the button of his jeans. “Look, I’m sorry. You love me, right?”

“You know I do, Ron.”

“An’ I’m remembering that, okay? I really am. But I can’t help.... I mean, I’m freaking out, right? I told you that! I know I can trust the both of you, but you know I’ll always have that fucking voice in my head, saying Least loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend . I know it’s a lie, but it’s there, right? Second-best, always, eternally overshadowed.... ” Ron shudders, then shrugs at Hermione. “It’s in there.”

Hermione steps across to him. “I don’t care where it is! In your head, in your heart, in Rita Skeeter’s next bestseller. If it says you’re second-best, it’s nothing but rubbish.” She puts her arms around him and turns him around, to wave her wand, behind his back, at Harry’s outfit where it lies on the bed. “Lauandium!

Harry’s clothing tumbles briefly on the bed, and comes to rest bright and clean.

“Hey, that’s pretty impressive,” Ron says. “Prop up your boyfriend’s ego and do your other boyfriend’s laundry at the same time! What do Muggles call that? Monkeymasking?”

“Multitasking.” They both turn to see Harry in the door from the bathroom. “What do you mean her other boyfriend?”

Ron’s eyes widen. “I... Er... Well, I dunno if–”

Hermione’s face has sunk into her palm, her hair cascading around her face. The moan that escapes, floating out of the refractory cloud of curls, is equal parts despair and humour. “Oh, by all means, Ron, tell Harry all about it while I’m in the shower, because what we really need is to make this morning even more awkward.” She looks up. “Get dressed, Harry, I’ll be a few minutes.”

Harry steps quickly aside to let her into the bathroom, and regards the closed door for a moment before turning to look back at Ron, his expression simultaneously hard and baffled, which Ron has to admit is something of an achievement.

“Um,” says Ron, intelligently. Well, no, he’s not even trying to sell himself on that one! “Yeah, look, Harry, this is one of those things that sounds more serious than it is, right? At least, that’s what I’m telling myself!”

Harry holds his gaze. Through the closed door, they hear the sound of the water starting.

“Look, are you going to put your clothes on? This’ll be awkward enough without Hermione coming out and finding you starkers.”

“All right, all right!” Harry turns to the bed, and Ron hears the small, satisfied sound he makes at the touch of his now-clean clothes. “I hate to tell her this, but Hermione’s really brilliant at laundry spells.”

“Trust your instincts, mate,” Ron smirks and Harry chuckles as he pulls his Y-Fronts up over the strong, angular shape of his bottom. As he reaches for the jeans, Ron continues, “Anyway, like I was telling you, I’m sure this isn’t as big as it sounds. I mean, I’m sort of freaking out about it, but I’m trying this new thing, looking at stuff logically instead of flying off the handle half-cocked.”

Harry grins over at him. “I can tell you’re sleeping with Hermione!”

Ron looks serious, though. “Well, we were talking last night. You know, Gin talked to me before she talked to you, right?”

Harry shrugs. “Yeah, she said.”

“Well, me ‘n’ Hermione were talking about that. And it got me sort of thinking. You know me. We were talking about you bein’ the big ol’ hero, bein' Gin’s lifetime crush, about Gin being jealous.... You know me, Harry! I hadda ask Hermione if she fancies you.”

Harry looks understanding. “Hermione got mad? Ron, you really have to stop this. She’s mad for you, mate, and she always has been. She’s been mad for you since before she knew what boys were for!

Ron’s expression is almost pitying as he shakes his head at Harry.

Harry’s jaw drops. “What the hell, Ron! You must’ve misunderstood! Hermione does not fancy me!”

“She does, Harry,” Ron says, softly. “She told me, she told me, she loves me, she wants to be with me, it’s nothing even t’do with me, basically.... But she fancies you.”

“Jesus Ron, she said that? And you’re not screaming at her? And me?”

Ron shakes his head. “Like I said, I’m.... I’m tryin’ to be a grown-up. It’s not like I’ve never fancied another girl. I mean, it’s not the same, it’s, you know, just a passing thing when that happens, an’ one thing you’ll never be – with Hermione or me! – is passing. But, you know.... There’s a million things in the world I want an’ can’t have, an’ I guess there’s at least one in Hermione’s world. So I’m just... Godric, Harry, you heard Riddle’s voice! You saw– You saw–” He shakes his head. Harry nods. “That shit drove me away when you needed me most. I’m never letting that happen again, right?”

“I never blamed you, Ron.”

Ron sets his jaw against the onslaught of emotions – disbelief, hope, resentment, warmth, shame, gratitude – and looks Harry in the eye. “I think you did. I think you should have. But I can’t change the past. I can only try to be better than I was. Being insecure an’ hotheaded an’ jealous got me nothing but trouble, so I’m changing that. So Hermione fancies you a bit. At least you’ve earned it, right? I’m gonna live with it. But I’m sort of freaking out, is all, so I tease her about it. ‘Least, that’s the idea.”

The water stops, and Harry grabs up his T-shirt and pulls it over his head, and he’s sitting on the edge of the bed, tying his trainers, when the door opens, and Hermione steps in, dressed in her conservative robes for her Ministry job.

“I trust Ron told you...?”

“Nah,” says Harry, standing up. “Got talking Quidditch, and forgot all about it.”

Hermione’s eyes narrow. “Really.”

“Yeah, yeah!” Ron backs Harry’s play automatically. “The Cannons are looking for a new Beater, see, an’...”

Hermione’s hooded glare grinds him to a stop.

“Anyway,” says Harry, “Let me make breakfast. Repay the hospitality.”

“Oh, Harry,” begins Hermione, “There’s no need...” but Harry’s already in the hall.

When they follow they hear him singing, a wry edge of humour in his voice:

I’m... Too sexy for my shirt, Too sexy for my shirt, So sexy that it hurts!

“Oh, it’s going to hurt,” Hermione mutters and sprints down the hallway after him as Ron roars with laughter.

The Auror Training Facility in Harlington is under the deserted remains of a Muggle movie studio, surrounded by signs warning of toxic wastes and biohazards. Harry and Ron walk through the barbed-wire fence as if it isn’t there – which, if you’re not a Muggle, it isn’t – and into the office building, passing tattered posters for period comedies and children’s adventure films made with puppets. They duck into the president’s office, and place the tips of their wands into a pen-holder on the mouldering desk, and the entire office sinks down through the building  and into the earth below. The door opens into a hallway in which professional Wizards and Witches move with confident purpose from lecture hall to gymnasium.

Aurors are required to take a full month of “refresher” training every two years, and the training facility is busy all year round. As they make their way toward the locker room, Harry exchanges a glance with Ron, and wonders what he’s thinking. There’s something troubled in Ron’s expression. Hell, there’s no shortage of reasons! I’ve failed with his sister, his girlfriend fancies me, and I woke up humping her leg! He shied away from the fact that the girlfriend in question was Hermione. Holy fuck, I can’t believe I did that to Hermione! It was something of a wonder they hadn’t taken turns hexing him into oblivion! But Harry also knows that his own gaze is troubled, and he knows that this emotional clusterfuck is only part of the reason why.

He was pretty excited to go into the Auror program, but the longer training goes on, the more uneasy he feels about it. Moody and Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt have all told him, at various times, that the Auror training programme was the most difficult, most rewarding endeavour they’ve ever tackled. All three of them are stronger, tougher, and more competent than he’s even approached being. They're smart, powerful, educated wizards– well, in the case of Tonks, a witch– any of whom could handily put Harry in St. Mungo's without even breathing hard.

So, if this was the hardest thing they’ve ever done, when are me and Ron going to hit the hard part? Because, never mind Potions with Snape, the training he and Ron have got thus far wasn’t even as hard as History of Magic, with Binns! Harry remembers one time, in Sixth Year, Tonks chatted with him about coming home from training covered with bruises, waking up with pulled muscles and a stiff neck. But he and Ron have yet to have a day’s training here that's any more strenuous than a Quidditch practice.

“This is fucking mental!” Ron is livid, and Harry, face pale and mouth compressed into a thin line, clearly agrees.

“Please, Mr. Weasley,” cries Dawlish, “It really was an accident! I’m so, so sorry!”

Ron daubs again at the bleeding cut on his arm. “Well, Duh! Of course it was a bleeding accident! So effing what? Are we in effing Auror Training or aren’t we?”

Dawlish looks baffled but Harry looks almost relieved.

“I’m sorry!” cries Dawlish again. “I’ve said, I’m sorry!

“Yeah, well, I’m done,” says Harry, quietly. He meets Ron’s eyes, and Ron nods his agreement. “We’re both done.”

Kingsley Shacklebolt looks both confused, which Harry is okay with, and hurt, which he isn’t. “But, Harry,” he asks, his slow, deep voice hesitant. “Why? Ron wasn’t seriously hurt. He didn’t even need Madam Glinda, the cut was so shallow.”

“I’ll tell you why, Kingsley,” he answers, his own voice soft and sad. “Dawlish was horrified. He apologised more than five times. To trainees, Kingsley! To Ron and me!” He draws in a breath, “And now you’re here! You’re the Minister of Magic, Kingsley, and you’re still sorting out who in your staff was a traitor and who was Imperiused and who was just evil–”

“By the way,” Ron interrupts darkly, “Dolores Umbridge is in that last group. Just sayin’.”

“And you’re here,” says Harry, a little forcefully, keeping the conversation on track, “you’ve left the Ministry and come out here to Harlington so you can intervene in the resignations of two trainee Aurors!

Kingsley smiles. “Well, Harry, let’s be honest. You and Ron are no ordinary trainees.”

“No,” says Harry, “and it’s taken us this long to realise that we never can be.”

The new Minster’s eyes widen at that. “Nonsense, Harry! You and Ron have done amazing things, extraordinary things! You brought down Voldemort himself! Of course you can make it as Auror trainees!”

Ron chuckles, his tone dark. “Maybe if we were Polyjuiced the whole time, and under aliases. Kingsley, you know Harry’s right. Who’s going to drive the Chosen One into the dirt? What parchment-pusher whose job is mainly arresting Flying-Carpet smugglers an’ Muggle-baiters is going to give orders to the Boy Who Lived? An’, like it or not, that’s slopped over onto me as well.”

“There’s no way,” Harry says grimly, “we can ever be real Aurors. The best we can be is recruiting adverts.”

Kingsley looks as if he’d like to object. His index finger rises and his brows gather and his mouth opens. But after a moment, those reactions all reverse themselves. The full lips come together and brows slide apart and the hand lowers to sit flat on the desk.

“You know,” says his slow, deep voice, in something like surrender and something like wonder, “I do believe you’re right.” He holds out a hand to Harry. “I’m sorry Harry. I could give all the orders in the world, but I can’t see Dawlish or Freeman or Straker ever really being able to deal with you as subordinates. I should have realized.”

Harry takes Kingsley’s hand, and Ron smirks as he says, teasingly, to the Minister of Magic – And who the hell, Ron thinks, later, ever would’ve thought I’d be doing something like that? – “Well, it’s not like you really felt like saying no to He-Who-Cacked-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, either, is it?”

Kingsley’s laugh is the same resonant boom it’s always been. “No. No, I have to say, it isn’t.”

Ron’s hips are perched on the edge of the back of the couch, and Harry’s sitting on one of the high stools by the counter-top between the kitchen and the living-room. It’s all sort of sloppy and liveable: Ginny’s no more one for interior design than Harry, and they just bought comfortable furniture from charity shops.

Harry’s doing all the work, if it can be called that: his trunk is sitting in the middle of the living-room floor, open, and he’s summoning, levitating, or banishing his belongings into it.

“Did you just tell her she was mental?” Ron asks.

“Well, yeah, Ron! I told her she was being ridiculous. I told her that I’d never even thought of you two that way–”

Ron sort of flinches at that. Even ‘that way’ is more explicit than Ron’s comfortable with. But, hell, he’d listened to his sister going on about her love-life yesterday, so he supposed he’d need to adjust his ideas of where his limits were.

“Anyway,” Harry is continuing, “she just rolled her eyes at that. Said she understood that. Said it was kind of a shame, actually.”

Ron stares up at him, shocked. “She what!?!?

“Shocked the hell out of me, too, mate, believe me!” Harry waves his broom-maintenance kit into the lower section of the trunk. “She said Merlin, Harry, I wish it was something you could get over with some pervy three-way sex!

This startles something out of Ron that’s got some laughter and some dismay and some discomfort mixed into it. “Yeah, that’s Gin, all right!”

“You’re telling me!” says Harry, his own tone not without humour or pain. “Anyway, she said, if it was like that, she could deal with it. Send us off for a lost weekend, she said, or a driving tour of Mexico.”

“My sister is mental!” Ron shakes his head.

“What she said she couldn’t stand....” Harry pauses as his dress robes float out of the bedroom, looking, for a terrible moment, like a Dementor. He gestures with his wand, and the robs dive into the trunk. Ron is irritated to find himself thinking that they’ll crease and wrinkle, tossed in like that, and his fingers twitch slightly toward his wand, but he restrains himself; he may be living with Hermione, but he won’t be her! “What she couldn’t stand was knowing that, girlfriend or wife or mother of my kids, she’d still come in behind the two of you.”

Ron sits forward. “Mother of your–”

Harry waves him down. “No, no, she was just thinking ahead! She’s mad, your sister, but she’s better at that than me.”

“So’s Pigwidgeon.”

“Thanks, Ron.” Harry gestures again, and a shoebox sails out of the cupboard and settles into the trunk. “Anyway, I opened my mouth to tell her she was mental again, and she just looked at me. You know how, sometimes, she can just look at you, and it takes all the wind out of your sails? She just looks at you, and it’s Don’t treat me like I’m stupid and it’s Let’s cut the bullshit, okay? And it’s You can lie to yourself all you want, but you can’t lie to me.”

“Yeah,” breathes Ron. “Yeah, I know that look.”

“I just sort of wilted right there, Ron. What kind of bastard boyfriend am I, that the girl I love – and I do love her, Ron, you know I do! – means less to me than my friends?”

“Shit, Harry, I’m not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed with feelings and such, but even I know it’s more complicated than that! Who did you ever really connect with before me, and then Hermione? I mean, yeah, there was Hagrid, but he was a grown-up, you know? Who in all the world did you ever care about who cared about you back – you know, on your own level, like – until us?”

Harry looks over at him, eyes dark, for a long moment. “I do, you know. I care– Oh, fuck that, I love you, Ron. I love you both. You know that, right?”

Ron shakes his head. “’Course I do, ya great berk! I love you, too, an’ so does Hermione. And she knows it too, but you should tell her anyway, because you know she loves all that drippy stuff.”

Harry grins. “You’re so sentimental, Ron!”

“Positively soppy! C’mon, you got everything?”

Harry sweeps a last look around the room, then swishes his wand at the trunk, which closes and locks itself. He gestures it to follow them, and leads Ron toward the Floo.

Hermione is loath to admit it, and she covers quickly, but when she arrives at home, and sees the witch who’s chatting with Ron, her heart jumps into her throat, and her skin crawls. But then the woman looks up at Hermione, and smiles, her expression so warm and kind and sad – most importantly, so sane! – that Hermione’s ashamed of her moment of terror. Andromeda Tonks looks eerily like her late sister, but that and blood are all she shares in common with Bellatrix Lestrange.

Hermione shakes her head. The woman has suffered so much, she won’t add to it by cringing away from her, just because she’s unfortunate enough to look like her sister. “M– Mrs. Tonks,” she says, with what she hopes is a welcoming smile. “How lovely to see you.”

“Thank you, Miss Granger,” she replies, her own voice and expression graceful, but her eyes, dark and unfathomably sad. “It’s so very good of the three of you to consider me.”

Hermione understands immediately. Her late husband, Ted Tonks, was a magical contractor, and Andromeda, she’s heard, has learned enough from him to continue his business. With a grandson – Harry’s godson! – to support, and the Black family fortune denied her, she needs the income. Ron will have called her in to add in a bedroom for Harry.

She turns back to Ron. “Mr. Weasley, I’m quite certain I can do this job. I’ll need to check on permits and so on, but I can have an estimate ready for you by noon tomorrow.”

“Yeah, very good,” says Ron. That doesn’t seem right to Hermione – won’t Ron be at Harlington then? – but she’s learning not to jump in so much. Ron generally knows what he’s doing, and maybe her own urge to ‘correct’ has a lot more to do with ‘control’ than she’d like to admit.

The door from the bathroom opens, and Harry steps into the room carrying a baby. Hermione’s insides do a little swoop when she sees that. She needs to think about that a little more, she knows; life seems to be rushing at her, with Harry and Ginny splitting up, and now Harry moving in.

“Here he is,” Harry says to Mrs. Tonks, “Clean as a whistle and sweet as a rose.”

The older woman takes the baby – of course, it would be little Teddy Lupin! – and smiles at Harry. Again, the expression is complex, sad and grateful and admiring and sharp. “Thank you, Harry.”

“It’s a pleasure,” Harry tells her, “believe me!”

She smiles more widely. “The novelty fades, Harry.” She chuckles then. “As the smell gets worse, actually.” She looks at the baby’s little face, his hair turning darker and messier even as they watch, and back up at Harry again. “He likes you.”

Harry waggles a finger in front of Teddy, whose eyes track it intently, as if the waving digit is the most interesting thing in the world. “It’s mutual.”

Andromeda Tonks smiles again, eyes sparkling, as much with happiness as unshed tears. She turns suddenly and carries Teddy toward the Floo. “Tomorrow, then,” she says. She tosses a handful of powder into the flames, which dance green before her. “Ministry of Magic, Department of Housing and Construction.”

And then she steps into the flames, and the two spin away, leaving behind the sound of Teddy's giggles.

“We quit,” Harry says simply. Ron half-cringes, as if Hermione were his mother, all ready to become a human Howler right there in the apartment with them, but Harry shows no sign of concern or discomfort as he says it.

Hermione nods sadly, glancing over at Ron. “Is this what we were chatting about the other night?”

He nods in reply. “You think they were laying off me, that’s nothing to how they were babying Harry.”

Hermione's expression is rueful and understanding. "I have to admit, it's the same at the Ministry. Sometimes, I just can't believe how many policies I've managed to change in just a few months. And I know, I mean, it's obvious, it's who I am, and the role I played in your defeat of Riddle, Harry. They're half in awe of me."

"Well, they should be," says Harry. "I am."

She pinkens slightly at that, and Ron suddenly says, "You are such a cheat!"

Her color deepens, and her eyes widen as she looks down at her hands, worrying one another’s fingers. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Ron sniggers. “You’re all about Rules are rules and fair is fair, and here you are using your fame to get your way at the Ministry – changing laws for the whole of Wizarding Britain, just because you’re the Mind Behind the Chosen One!

She looks up then from under her dark brows, her smile confident and almost savage. “You bet I am! You just bet I am! Elves, goblins, centaurs, all manner of magical creatures have been subjugated and defamed for generations! Do you know that wizards so feared centaurs, they created a whole myth about them being, nothing but sex-obsessed rapists? Bad enough we’ve used our command of magic and wandmaking to control them, when we couldn’t break their pride and enslave them, we actually defamed them in the most brutal, disgusting way for a thousand generations! If I can start to undo those crimes, by leveraging my fame? I won’t hesitate! How could I? Oh, you Elves, I’ve talked a good game about your freedom, but I won’t do anything about it unless I can feed my ego! Is that who I’ve ever been? I’ll swallow my pride and take advantage of my fame if it helps make life better for all those people. My pride, my little sense of self-worth and made-up ethics doesn’t mean anything against that!”

Harry sits forward at that. “’Made-up ethics’?” He takes her hand in his. “Hermione, your ethics, your, your – Professor McGonagall once said something to me, a day or two after.... You know...” Ron and Hermione both nod their understanding. “She said that she always knew I’d find my way by your ‘moral compass.’ Your ethics aren’t ‘made up,’ Hermione. You’ve studied them, you’ve spent your life thinking about them.”

“Well.... My ethics tell me that if being famous for helping you stop Riddle gives me the power to improve things for other magical beings, It would be unforgivable not to use that opportunity. If reminding Kingsley that I helped you lets me shut down Dolores Umbridge and enact another safeguard for house-elves’ rights, that’s fine with me.”

Ron glances over at Harry, grin forming on his lips; it’s a thing they’ve done a million times since they were eleven, that shared glance, shared smile, Isn’t that Hermione all over? But what he sees stills him, just for a moment. Harry hasn’t looked over to him, not yet, not yet. He’s smiling at Hermione, his eyes intense, loving and very tender, Then his gaze flickers over to Ron, smiling the smile Ron initially aimed at Harry: That’s Hermione all right!

Ron pastes his own version back on, and they smile together at her, just enjoying the perfect Hermioneness of her, but as they settle back again, Ron’s mind races, considering the revelations of the last couple of days.

“First of all,” Ron says into George’s snigger, “I’m ginger, not scarlet. Second, I’m not half a woman, I’m a whole man.” He ducks as a mechanical blue pixie swoops past his head. “And, you know what? Gin seemed pretty cut up about this, maybe it’s not a joke, huh?”

George tilts his head, angling the hole where his left ear had been toward his brother. “I’m sorry, say again, please? I heard you the first time.”


“I didn’t like it.” George shakes his head. “Look, our sister is nuts. She left the Boy who bloody well Lived because she’s jealous of the two of you! You think I’m not taking that out for a ride?”

Ron waves it off. “Fine, I’m half a scarlet woman, and I stole my sister’s boyfriend, and, by the way, we’ve both quit our jobs.”

“And you want back in here?” George grins. “I can’t have you seducing all our customers.”

“Nah, I’m a one-man-one-woman man.” Ron ducks the pixie’s next strafing run. “I just wanted to talk to you. You’re annoying, but you’re smart. I thought you might have some ideas.”

“Fair enough,” says George. “She’s insane, but I’m not sure she’s wrong, you know.”

“I meant ideas about jobs!”

“Boring,” says George. “I’d rather have ideas about your love life.”

“I have a love life! Ginny didn’t dump me!

“Well, I should hope not, that would be weird. She’s your sister. Imagine the awkward Sunday dinners!”


“I mean, it’s not like the rest of Hogwarts wasn’t thinking it, you know. Malfoy had a whole song, The Gryffindor Three, cuddled under a tree, all six boots among the roots, it’s nothing anyone should see! Very catchy, really.” He laughs. “Fred wanted to run a pool, but I thought that would be mean to Gin.” Suddenly, though, his eyes are serious. “Nobody in the world means as much to any of you as the three of you do to each other. You know that, right? You think the way you mooned around Shell Cottage that winter isn’t Weasley legend?”

Ron steps back, eyes wide. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“You can lose it all, Ron. You can lose anything, any time. No warning, no nothing. One minute, you’re laughing at a lame joke from a lame jokester, and then you’re dead, just like that. You don’t know how much time you have. Don’t waste any.”

“Merlin, George! You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“There was no place in the pool for ‘They Won’t End Up Together.’”

Ron buries his face in his hands. “All I wanted was a little simple–”

“Oh, don’t be a dimwit, Ron! You’re being chased all over the Wizarding World by companies wanting you to endorse their products! Grab a free broom, go on the wireless and say it’s the best you ever owned, which is bound to be true, even, and take the damned galleons and run! Now, get out of here!”

The sun has already dipped below the towers of the London skyline, and, while the sky above is still blue, the streets, where Muggle cars crawl slower than Ron and the other pedestrians are walking, are twilight-grey. It always unnerves him when George turns serious, as he’s wont to do, from time to time, since Fred’s death.

But he’s more bothered by what he said. He’s more bothered that he felt embarrassed, naked, under his brother’s words.

There was no place in the pool for ‘They Won’t End Up Together.’ Malfoy and his smug little song. Months in that tent, just the three of them. You don’t know how much time you have. Don’t waste it.

Ron turns his head away from flaring headlights. He’s walked for long enough. It’s time to go home.

"Nah," says Ron. "Don't bother."

Harry turns and stares, expression disbelieving.

Hermione is standing very still, watching them both with interest. Harry’s hand, she sees, is gripping the doorknob of the linen closet so tightly his knuckles are white.

“Are you mad?” Harry’s tone is almost conversational. “I mean, have you just gone right round the bend?”

Hermione’s head swivels almost on its own to see Ron’s response. His face is impassive, and he shrugs. “We were comfortable enough last night, weren’t we?”

Back to Harry. “Like when I was humping your girlfriend’s leg in my sleep?”

Ron shrugs. “Doesn’t seem to have been all that traumatic this morning, does it?”

Harry looks over at her. “And are you in on this, too, Hermione?”

She swallows. “I’m as surprised as you are,” she says, “but it’s fine with me.”

“‘Fine,’” chuckles Ron. “You love the idea.”

She draws in a deep breath through her nose, her jaw clenched. She feels defensive, as if Ron’s mocking her for her confessed attraction to Harry, but his expression isn’t mocking. It’s open and interested and accepting.

Maybe I should try trusting my boyfriend.

“I do,” she says softly. “I do love the idea.” She turns to Harry. “I love Ron with all my heart, and I’ve known joy and pleasure and ecstasy in his arms and in his bed, and the best night I’ve ever spent in my entire life was last night, between the two of you.”

Harry stares at her, eyes wide, then turns to look at Ron. Ron’s expression when she glances at him seems both proud and satisfied – it’s like the face she sees when he’s worked out a chess move, playing against his father, but it’s warmer, pride in her as if she’s done something amazing – and he looks over at Harry with easy, open expectation.

Harry’s very still, like a rabbit caught by the headlights of an oncoming lorry, as he looks back and forth between her and Ron.

It all feels very big to her, bigger than it should. This means more, she knows, than a night’s sleeping arrangements. She feels like Ron’s choreographing something, here, and it isn’t that she doesn’t understand it, but that she doesn’t dare believe it. Not Ron, surely. Not old-fashioned, jealous Ron!

“Then spend another,” Ron says. “An’ another after that, an’ another after that.” He looks over at Harry. “Unless that’s a problem for you, Harry.”

Harry seems almost baffled. “Ron, Hermione... I’m not... I don’t... It’s not like that.”

Irritation flickers across Ron’s features. “Well, why the hell not? I mean, look at her, Harry? What’s wrong with her? She’s not good enough for you, maybe?”

Something hot pulses in Hermione’s chest, and she chooses, very consciously, to treat it as affront. “Am I something you pass around, then, Ron, like a box of Droobles?” She’s building up a head of steam now, and very determined not to examine why. “What next, Ron? Shall we have intercourse in front of you so you can show off how above-it-all and over your jealousy you are?”

Ron’s face colors and he shouts back at her, “Fuck him, don’t fuck him, kiss him, don’t kiss him! I love you both, and I want you to have what you want! How am I the fucking bad guy in this?”

“Do I get a say in this?” shouts Harry.

The both spin to face him, as Ron asks, “Do you ever?

Harry’s mouth drops open as Hermione gapes at Ron, and then Harry’s barking his Sirius-like laugh, and suddenly Hermione can’t ignore the ridiculousness of the whole shouting match, and she’s chuckling, too. She lowers her head, looking up at Ron through her eyelashes, and he’s across to her in two long strides, sidling around to embrace her from behind, chin resting atop her head, turning her toward Harry.

“Mate,” he says softly. “Look, never mind all that ‘like a sister’ bollocks, right? I’ve got a sister. I think you’ve met her. There’s nothing else like it. Now, if you’re really mental enough not to want this amazing girl–” he shakes her slightly, and she feels lightheaded in his arms “–well, all right, whatever, your loss, mate. I mean, you’d be a daft berk, but, hey, that’s not exactly unprecedented.” Harry and Hermione both snort with laughter at the casual, bantering insult. “But I don’t think that’s true. I’ve seen it, sometimes. You look at Hermione like she’s the most divine fucking miracle ever seen on this earth. You look at her like I do. Every now and again, for just a second, before you realize and get careful. I’m not mad. How could I be? I feel the exact same fucking way. Last night, after I talked to Ginny, I asked Hermione, and she was fucking brave enough, our Gryffindor girl, to tell me she fancies you. Are you going to leave her out there all alone?”

Her heart swoops in her chest, then, as if she’s mis-stepped walking on Beachy Head, and she’s frozen in that moment, there at that cusp between standing and falling, between life and death, her fate hanging on whether a hand will reach out and catch her.

Harry’s face bunches up like a fist, and he turns on Ron. “Why are you doing this? Don’t you know how– How dangerous this is?”

“Dangerous?” Ron’s tone is dismissive. “Danger of what? Breaking you up from Ginny? Losing our place in the Auror corps? Turning our lives upside-down and nothing going like we expect?”

“How about ruining things between us? Between the three of us?”

“That can never happen, Harry,” Hermione hears herself saying. She’s sort of shocked to have said it, suspended in mid-air, standing with Ron solid against her back “Hasn’t it always been the three of us? What do you think could possibly happen that could change that?”

Harry sucks in a long, slow breath. She can see it, she can see the determination rising in him, see him steeling himself to speak. “I could tell the truth,” he says. “I could tell the truth and let out what’s inside me.”

“Harry, we loved you when part of Tom Riddle’s soul was inside you.” Hermione can hardly believe her voice is so calm and practical, as if she’s turned it over to some automatic part of herself, something outside of her leaping heart and her clenched belly. “What could you say now? That you want me? That you don’t want me? That you want Ron?

Harry’s looking at his feet now.

“Yes,” he says.

Hermione blinks her surprise. "Yes?  You want Ron?" She feels Ron's reaction to that through his grip; good or bad, pleased or disturbed, that she can't tell, but the seismic shudder that rolls through him? That's something real, shock, surprise, whatever. "Really? I thought you liked girls."

Harry looks miserable. "Yes. No. Yes." He sucks in a long breath. "I guess... I'm not like normal people. I don't understand that."

"Well, now you say it that way, mate, neither do I." Ron's tone is friendly, even casual, and Hermione is filled with admiration for him. "What are you talking about?"

Harry releases the doorknob, moves across to drop himself down on the couch, and Ron moves from behind her, taking her hand and bringing her across to join him. They end up all on the couch, Harry turned with his back against one arm, Ron against the other with Hermione leaning back into his solidity.

"I... Maybe it's how they– How I was brought up." They, of course, were Vernon and Petunia Dursley. It never failed to fill Hermione with a sort of sick awe that after seven years as the target of a man who combined the evil of a Hitler with the powers of a minor god, the most damage Harry had ever suffered was at the hands of his aunt and uncle. "Maybe," he continues, "I'm just a–Just abnormal."

Hermione wants to object, to reassure, but she doesn't. One thing she's learning now is a sort of emotional triage. They're all better off if Harry says what he has to say first. Time enough after to soothe and reassure.

"Liking girls," Harry continues, "liking boys. I'm in love with this one, I love that one, but it's not love-love. Oh, there are different kinds of love. What does that even mean?"

Hermione just stares, eyes wide and mouth open. This is so much more than she was prepared for.

"I mean, yeah, I get that there are people who are, like, you know, family. People where you'd feel like it was incest or something. But, other than that? Love is love. 'Love you like a friend,' 'love you like a lover?' That makes no sense to me. I love you – both of you. I love Ginny. So her, I get to snog and shag and share those wonderful things with, and you two I don't? Why? I mean, I get it, that's the rules, and rules are rules, but it seems arbitrary and stupid to me."

He drags in another breath in the silence that follows. “I mean, I used to just crawl into a hole, you know? Before. I knew I was supposed to have love, but I couldn’t understand it, and I couldn’t really imagine it, and I’d just crawl into my little fucking hole. I’d still be in it if wasn’t for the two of you. You two mean more to me – I love you both more – than anyone else on earth. Nobody else even comes close. It just... It doesn't make sense to me that that shouldn't be... You know. Love and stuff."

Hermione is hardly aware as she leans toward Harry, her muscles bunching under her. Ready to spring across the small distance to him like lioness onto a gazelle. Ron’s hands clasp her sides, and the solid grip pulls her short – not physically, but mentally, emotionally. Is he supporting her, helping her? Or is he stopping her?

Then he’s making a low noise in his throat, needy and aroused, and she feels that pulse inside her as he pulls her against him, leaning around and turning her face with one large hand so he can capture, he can devour her mouth, hungrily, ravenously, his tongue pressing its way in claim hers.

As he pulls away, a thin thread of saliva shining in the air between them, she stares at him with a kind of animal wonder, as he reaches out, past her, his other hand turning her away from him again, and his fist is bunching in Harry’s shirt, and jerking him forward into Hermione’s arms.

His expression is comical, a cartoon of surprise, and then she’s pulling him against her, his slender body so hard and strong against her chest, and her mouth seeks his out. Harry has lips, a tongue, a scruff of stubble, just like Ron. But kissing him is nothing like kissing her ginger boy, even after the initial moments of rigid disbelief melt away. Ron’s mouth conquers, marches in like an invading army, to take what it has won by right. Harry’s mouth is tentative at first, and even when his need drives him to boldness, there’s a quality she can only describe as furtive. His mouth is swift and insistent, as if it’s getting away with as much as it can while a limited window of opportunity remains open.

Ron is leaning around, staring avidly at the joining of their mouths, and she’s aware of him reaching to grasp Harry’s wrist, moving his hand.

“You weren’t dreaming of my sister, were you, mate?” It’s not a question, it’s almost a taunt, but teasing and loving – Hermione remembers that exact tone as he knelt between her spread legs, the head of his cock nestling against her center, and he teased, You want something, Hermione? – and if it works in Harry’s blood the way it does in hers, they may both spontaneously combust. “You were dreaming of our girl.”

Then he takes Harry’s hand, and presses it, palm-first, against her left breast.

“Oh, God!” Harry gasps the words into her mouth, and Hermione angles herself into has hand as she swallows them, making her own small, hungry noise.

She’s aware of Ron’s head angling over and suddenly his mouth is on her neck, teeth pinching the sensitive skin, then tongue trailing up the cords and hollows, and she groans again into Harry’s mouth, and he’s squeezing her breast now, shifting his palm against the nipple he can surely feel, hard and hot, through her bra and blouse.

“Feel her, Harry,” Ron breathes as he lifts his mouth away from her hot, tender skin for a moment. “Feel her, taste her. Can you smell her, mate?”

She can feel the hot moisture of her arousal, and she knows Ron has its scent, and if Harry has it too, she may die, she may simply just die of the fire coursing through her veins, the electricity tingling across her skin.

Harry finally pulls himself away from her, stares at Ron with eyes that are wide and almost frightened.

“You like that, Harry? Isn’t she amazing? Isn’t that just the best thing you ever had in all your life?”

“Oh, fuck, Ron!” His head moves, uncoordinated, as if he simply can’t imagine what he should do with it, and Ron’s hands are suddenly unbuttoning her blouse, and his body is hot against her back, hardness rubbing against her as he shifts his hips, deliberately flaunting that touch.

Hermione's hands have been tangled in Harry’s hair, and she slides them down the sides of his head, tracing over his ears and then his neck and then his chest, and her right bunches in his t-shirt, pulling it up his belly, as her left slides down to press a palm against his hardness, his erection, and she gasps at the slender solid shape through the denim.

Ron’s leaning back and away, sliding the cotton back over her shoulders, and lets go, the blouse sliding down her arms. She’s pulling her hands from the sleeves as she feels Ron’s fingers, nimble on the fasteners over her spine, and as her bra starts to slide loose, it’s Harry’s hands that grab the straps, jerking them roughly down her arms.

“Look at those tits, mate!” cries Ron. Harry immediately leans back to obey, and Hermione finds that she’s arching her chest toward him, flaunting her breasts, the left nipple hard, almost distended, the right looser and more flaccid, the creamy pink areole relaxed over more of her breast than the crinkled, urgent rose of the left. Beautiful.

Ron’s lips are at her ear, and he murmurs, “You know he won’t stop unless you stop him, love.”

She leans over and around, claims Ron’s mouth with her own. Then she looks back at Harry, locking her eyes with his. “Will you, Harry? Will you stop?”

His eyes are wide and bright. “Only if that’s what you want.”

She leans back against Ron again, sucking in a deep breath through her nose, feeling the solidity of him, supporting her.

“I’ll tell you what I want, Mister,” she finally says. She launches herself forward, hands grabbing for his waistband, and her nimble fingers are at his belt-buckle, pulling out the black leather tongue, undoing the belt and then the buttons down his fly.

Harry stares down at her, his hands almost flapping by his hips, as if he has no idea what to do with them, and the corner of Hermione's mouth quirks into a fond smile.

“Ron?” she says, her tone leading.

“Oh!” Ron’s tone is surprised and understanding, “Oh, brilliant!” He’s moving against her, reaching down to pull her skirt up her thighs and over the curve of her bottom.

“Jesus!” cries Harry, shocked for a moment back to his Muggle background.

She hears Ron’s zip behind her, then feels his fingers curling under the elastic waist of her knickers and she grins almost ferally up at Harry as she jerks his denims and pants down his thighs. His cock springs up at her, long and hard slender and very straight. Her eyes widen as she takes in its elegant shape, so different from Ron’s, jolly and stout and curving upward.

“I want that,” she rasps, her voice hoarse, and looks back up into Harry’s eyes. “I want my boys. My. Boys.

“How ‘bout it, mate?” Ron’s voice is hoarse. “You want our girl? You want to fuck her clever mouth?”

The words lance through her with electric fire, and she groans, groans, “Please.....”

“You’re...” Harry’s cock, hard and deepening into purple, twitches before her, reaching for her. “You’re sure?

“Oh, fuck, Harry,” snarls Hermione, and she lunges forward, filling her mouth with him, so fast and hard that she gags on the head of his cock as it slams into the back of her throat.

“Easy, there, girl,” murmurs Ron, and his strong hands on her hips pull her back, and she feels his stout cock rooting its way into her, He’s shifting and wriggling in that familiar way, shifting slightly from side to side, his movements practiced to part and spread her as his stout cock penetrates her.

The two cocks inside her both amaze her, Ron’s in its familiar, friendly, warm magnificence as it fills her, Harry’s, with the shock of the new.

It’s not entirely new, of course. It’s a penis, after all, a small sack of flesh, its capillaries so full of hot blood as to inflate and stiffen it. A living spigot for ejecting fluids: Several times a day, it streams wastes and toxins into a toilet, and in a few moments, it will fill her mouth with salty semen. It feels larger in her mouth than it looked in front of her, if not so challenging a fit as Ron’s, and it tastes like skin.

But Harry’s cock is in her mouth, Ron cheerleading as he fucks her from behind, and nothing she’s ever experienced can prepare her for this. She’s long known the joy of Ron, and thought wistfully of the joy she’d never know from Harry. She hasn’t regretted, how could she regret the life she has with her amazing, brilliant ginger boy? She’s just known of another path, one she would also have liked to walk. She’d thought to ponder it with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence, but how could she have known, as her ways led on to ways, that Ron would take her hand, and lead her back to that other path, grassy and wanting wear, and walk it with her, hand in hand?

“Hermione....” Harry’s voice is a grateful, reverent, wondering whine, as if the mouth wrapped around his cock belongs not to a nineteen-year-old girl with unimpressive breasts – whatever Harry and Ron might say – and overbroad hips and cellulite thighs, but to the wheeling cosmos itself. His fingers brush over her face in tender strokes, tangle in her hair, and she can feel the trembling of his disciplined denial, his self-restraint in not grabbing it in fistfuls to thrust into her mouth.

The slenderness and length of Harry’s cock gives her more room to be creative with her tongue, and she circles the glans of his penis – which she suddenly realizes is circumcised, another difference from Ron’s – and runs the tip of her tongue along the underside as she pulls her head back, drawing him partially from her mouth.

Ron fills her from behind, strong and rhythmic, but she can feel patience in his slow, steady strokes. In a strange way, as much as for his pleasure, his cock is inside her to encourage her forward. This is all right. How can it be wrong? I’m here inside you while you do it.

“Isn’t she brilliant, Harry?” Ron’s almost crooning the words. “Isn’t our girl just the most brilliant thing you ever had?”

He’s leaning forward on her now, his hand curled under to stroke her clitoris as he fucks her, and Harry’s groaning as she sucks on his cock while Ron fucks her.

The dark curls, thicker and coarser than Ron’s soft body hair, tickle her nose as she sucks Harry in, and one of his hands, slenderer and sort of trickier – she doesn’t know why, but that’s the word – than Ron’s, reaches and around and under to play with her breast.

She leans back again, not quite pulling him from her mouth, and tries to speak, her tone playfully scolding, around his cock: “WomaftuahWeschun!Ron asked you a question!

“Oh, fuck,” Harry moans, as she slides him back into her throat again, now with more planning, able to swallow the head, angular and elegant and reminding her of a red Indian arrowhead, on the thrust. “Fuck, Ron, she’s so fucking great! How did you fucking survive, mate, how did you even fucking survive it?”

“I didn’t.” Ron thrusts again as he says it, but there’s less ease, now, she can feel it, less patience. He’s showing her he loves her, but that’s still his cock and her cuntshe sort of shocks herself with the word, from time to time, when the Ron in her thoughts is feeding her her lines– and he’s fucking her, and that’s never entirely selfless. “I die of it, mate. Every.” Thrust! “Single.” Thrust! “Time.” Thrust!

Each of those thrusts has shoved her mouth and throat down on Harry, and he’s timed himself with Ron, so they’re almost using her to fuck each other, the motions of each moving her against the other, and she thinks she might die herself. La Petite Mort. Say what you will about the French, they know what they’re talking about in the kitchen and the bedroom.

Then, Harry’s fingers are curling in her hair, and Ron’s squeezing her hip while the others press her center back toward him, and their motions become stronger, more intense, and she has to stop being clever with her tongue, just let it be a curled path to cradle the straight, slender, thrusting cock as Ron fucks her harder and harder. It’s something of a wonder to her that, even as he reaches these frantic points, Ron’s fingers still know what to do, and the crazed jolts of lightning that have been playing through her nervous system, as much at the mere knowledge of what they’re doing, of Harry and Ron both, of the three of them finally sharing this moment together, that electric heat is now organized, radiant, focused, gathering in her vagina as it clutches Ron’s pounding cock.

And then Harry’s moaning her name with a certain note of warning – but without, she’s amused and pleased to notice, loosing his grip on her hair, or easing his frantic fucking of her mouth – and his cock is twitching between her tongue and the roof of her mouth, and then her mouth is full of thick, hot jism, its taste salty and a little bitter, with a hint of smokiness, like provolone cheese.

Again, it’s as much knowledge as sensation, the fact that Harry – Harry! – has come in her mouth as much as Ron’s fingers and driving cock, that pushes her over the edge, and she cries out a little, semen leaking as her mouth slides back from Harry’s still-pulsing erection, spurting a curling thread of jism over her nose and upper lip, as her own sex clenches around Ron, as her vision swims in red.

“Oh, oh, Fuck, Hermione, oh, fuck,” moans Ron, and she feels his ejaculation inside herself. She cries out again, more jism slopping out of her mouth and onto her chin – and a last, failing spurt from Harry’s hard, shining cock feels like a hot, wet question-mark on her cheek – and, as Ron almost collapses on her back, she finally thinks to close her mouth and swallow, which she does twice before she’s cleared the pooled semen.

Harry has collapsed back again against the arm of the sofa, and Hermione lays her head down on him, her cheek against his hipbone, his flagging cock brushing against her lips, and she kisses the shaft gently, tenderly. Ron reaches up, brushes her hair tenderly out of her face, then draws his hand back, and she feels his head angle, as he looks at it, and glances back over her shoulder to see his baffled expression before she lets her head drop and sees that the fingers that brushed her hair are shining with a glob of Harry’s semen.

She reaches out and takes his wrist, and pulls the fingers to her mouth, sucking them in with a satisfied grunt.

“Sorry, mate,” murmurs Harry.

“’Salright,” Ron mumbles.

Hermione breathes in the musky smell of Harry’s crotch, feels his fingers stroking her hair. “I love you, Harry,” she finally says. “I always have.”

Ron’s softening cock finally slips out of her.

Ron's always thought that if he ever saw Hermione with another man’s jizz all over her face, he’d lose his shit completely. He’s feared for years that if he ever saw some real sign that Hermione wanted Harry, that she loved him, he’d just go away and kill himself. Least loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend.

He's half-lying on Hermione’s back, looking at her peaceful face laying on Harry’s naked crotch, his dark pubic hair like a pillow of dead crabgrass, his cock shining with her spit and his jizz as it slowly shrinks, sliding against her nose and her lips, Harry’s spunk splattered on her face and leaking from her lips, and what he feels is a deep, warm, powerful sense of peace and completion.

This was nothing he could have imagined yesterday, sitting across a restaurant table from his sister, Harry’s girlfriend. Not even this afternoon, as Harry told him what Ginny said to him. But here he lies with his miraculous girl, having watched her and fucked her as she took Harry’s cock in her mouth, and for the first time in he doesn't know how long, everything in the world just feels right.

He feels that part of his brain try, half-heartedly, to torment him: What if she likes him better? What if she’d rather just have him? But he doesn’t believe it, not with the familiar way she moved against him while he fucked her, not with the way, as she reached to take Harry, she called for him.

How odd that he never saw it, never realized. How amazing that something so simple, so fundamental and true, had been beyond any of their imaginations! He knows that Harry desires him, too, and that'll be complicated, at least at first. He’s never fancied blokes before, and he still isn't sure how he feels about Harry, but seeing his hard cock spring out at Hermione was so fucking hot, and Harry’s jizz all over his fingers didn't feel any different from his own. They’ll work it out. It isn’t a problem. It’s not even a question. It's the three of them, as it was always meant to be, stronger together than ever apart. Nothing's ever really been right when they weren’t together. Not school and not adventures and not war. How could life or love make sense any other way?

He feels muscle tension starting to form in Hermione, beneath him, and realizes his weight’s becoming uncomfortable for her.

“Okay, come on,” he says, lifting himself carefully off her. “We need a shower before bed, now.”

A shower?” Harry’s picked up on his tone, and his is hopeful, but almost suspicious. “All together, you mean?”

Hermione chuckles fondly as she shifts across Harry’s legs to climb to her feet. Her knickers fall from her knees, where Ron had left them, to capture her ankles, and she steps easily out of them, and, as she squats down to pick them up, she kisses Harry’s willy again. “Of course, Harry. Why waste hot water?”

Ron grins. Her skirt is rumpled around her waist, its hem still most of the way up her thighs, and she’s reaching down to touch Harry’s peter again, actually grasping and tugging playfully at it to encourage him. She didn’t just fancy Harry a bit, that’s clear enough. It’s like he fills a part of her, a Harry-shaped space in her heart he could no more fit in than Harry could fill the Ron-shaped place he holds. As Harry stands and kicks off his jeans and pants, as Ron has done, and they move, all together, Hermione now touching Harry’s bottom, now leading Ron by his soft, sloppy cock, Ron finds himself thinking of all the nights they’ve gone to bed, since Voldemort died, without all being together. The mornings they’ve woken up apart, the days they’ve spent divided, halved from Harry by the lives they’d expected – the lives they were expected – to live.

The shower is another kind of miracle, Hermione moving back and forth between her boys, washing and fondling and exploring all at once, Ron feeling excited to take in Harry’s wondering, hungry expression as he washes her body, and oddly happy at the normalcy of the feeling as he squirts shampoo into his palm and starts cleaning Harry’s sperm from her curls.

Hermione suddenly chuckles, and starts singing quietly, “Gonna wash that man right outta my hair, gonna wash that man right outta my hair!”

Ron goggles at her. “There’s a song for that?”

She smiles in response. “Not really. It’s more general: about a woman giving up on a man. It’s from a musical called South Pacific. But Rodgers and Hammerstein weren’t thinking of seminal fluid, believe me.”

Ron’s response is to laugh happily over at Harry. “That’s our girl, mate. Naked in the shower with two boys, and she still sounds like an Encyclopedia.”

Harry leans down and kisses her ear, which is angled toward the shower-head. “I wouldn’t want her any other way.”

Ron smiles, feeling the warmth down deep within himself. His girl, his love, his Hermione, she’s shining now, glowing from within, and why shouldn’t she? She’s the jewel in the setting of her two boys, the focus of two loves, and some part of him feels a kind of envy of that.

He’s never wanted another boy or a man, even Harry, never imagined himself feeling a hard male body against his own. Never imagined kissing a mouth bordered with scratchy stubble, or touching a hard cock, or having calloused fingers wrapping around his... But it’s suddenly occurring to him that Harry’s love is as available to him as it is to Hermione. The idea is ill-formed, yet, but it’s there. Just as Hermione is at the focus of two loves, so can he be. Least loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend. Second-best, always, eternally overshadowed. He knows he isn’t overshadowed now. He knows, but somewhere inside him, some part of his heart doesn’t... But he can know, even there, can’t he? He can be the center of every love that truly matters to him.

He realizes that he’s moved around them, that Harry has taken over washing Hermione’s hair, and that he’s squirting her favorite liquid soap onto his palms. He begins massaging it into Harry’s shoulders. Harry will never really be tall, and he really does always look like he’s missed too many meals – one more reason to loathe the Dursleys – but he’s strong and solid and Ron concentrates on feeling, really feeling, the hard planes and angles of his shoulder-blades and the solid corded muscle that makes a lie of the seeming scrawniness of his best mate’s build.

“Ron!?” Harry’s spun to look back at him, eyes wide.

Ron does his best to look casual and normal. “Yeah?”

“I...” Harry regards him for a moment longer, then pastes his own blandest expression on. “All right, mate.” The wonder has re-filled his eyes, though, by the time he’s turned back to Hermione.

It fills Ron’s heart again as he scrubs lower, down the to the middle of Harry’s strong back, to see the pleasure, the reverence, his best mate takes in his – in their – girl. How did he not know that this was where they were all meant to be?

He sucks in a breath, then turns Harry, sideways between them, Hermione on one side, himself on the other, and reaches down with a soapy hand to grasp Harry’s cock.

Mate???” Harry’s even more shocked, and Hermione’s staring up at him with her own eyes wide. “Are– Are you sure?

“No,” says Ron, simply. “’M not. But this is how I’ll find out, right? No harm in that.”

Harry’s cock is strange in his hand. It’s not like touching his own cock, like all those times through the years he’s wanked to fantasies of Hermione – or, he’ll admit to himself, Madam Rosmerta. When he touches himself, he feels it twice and once at once: the feeling of cock against fingers, fingers against cock, two sensations from two sources combined together, and there's really no separating them, no differentiating one feeling from the other. Here, though, there’s only the cylinder of hot skin in the circle of his fingers, the skin itself feeling very soft, very thin and fine and silky, reminding him of Hermione’s eyelids under his lips when he kisses her in her sleep. Within that soft skin is solidity, hot and firm, and Ron’s surprised to feel himself harden as he strokes Harry’s cock.

“Oh, God, mate....” Harry’s head lays on Ron’s chest. Hot water beats down on his face from the shower-head. His hips thrust, he’s fucking Ron’s hand as Ron wanks him.

Hermione's eyes are wide, her face flushed, as she watches, moaning, “My God, my God,” over and over, in unconscious rhythm with Ron’s strokes. As Ron watches, her nipples harden and darken, and she reaches with one hand for her own center.

“No, Love,” Ron rasps, not sure why his own voice is so hoarse, why his cock is so hard as he pumps at Harry’s long, slender cock in his fist. “Let Harry.”

Her eyes are wide again, with something like discovery, as her gaze snaps up to his, and she takes Harry’s hand in hers, and pulls it to her sex. “You know what to do, Harry. She told me that much.”

This – this reminder that he’s wanking a man who’s learned sex on his sister – shouldn’t send an electric charge of arousal through Ron, but it somehow does, and he moans, “Oh, fuck!” as he jerks rhythmically at Harry’s cock.

“Ooooohhhh!” Hermione's groan, low and throaty gives him another spike, and another again as she gasps, “Oh, Harry, she didn’t do you justice!”

Okay, that’s pretty fucked up, he admits to himself, and continues pumping at Harry’s cock.

Harry groans against Ron’s collarbone, and Hermione’s moved around against them, taking Ron’s erection in her hand.

Her rhythm is compromised. Whatever Harry’s doing with his fingers is both right and new, and she’s distracted, faltering at times, squeezing a bit too tight at others, and even that discomfort is better than anything Ron’s ever felt, and why does Harry’s cock feel so amazing in his hand?

Harry groans again, and a thick jet of hot, white semen jets onto Ron’s thighs, to be washed down his legs and down the drain by the pounding water.

Hermione’s pulling Harry’s face down to her, kissing him, and Ron continues, more gently now, stroking the softening cock, but his hips are moving now, too, fucking Hermione’s hand as her mouth moves over his best friend’s and he doesn’t know why he isn’t screaming in rage and jealousy other than that this is the most wonderful, the rightest thing he’s ever done, and he really doesn’t understand how he’s lived as long as he has without this, without the three of them being this complete, this whole, this true.

She cries out, suddenly, hips bucking, thrusting her sex against Harry’s hand, her own hand spastic on Ron’s cock, and then she backs away slightly, gasping to Harry, “Too much, oh, God, too much!”

Ron’s not sure if her knees have given out, or it’s a strategic retreat, but she’s suddenly kneeling, and she kisses Harry’s moist-limp cock where the head protrudes from Ron’s fingers, then turns to devour his. Her mouth is hot and heavenly; she knows his cock, knows where it’s sensitive, knows where he likes to feel her tongue and where, her teeth, and soon she’s drinking his orgasm, weaker, of course, then the one he loosed into her vagina just a few minutes ago on the couch, and he groans, stroking her hair with his free hand.

It takes them long enough to concentrate on actually getting clean that Hermione has to do a warming charm on the shower head, and when they dry one another with big, fluffy towels, the boys are again distracted by Hermione’s body and her reactions, and after she comes they have to wash their hands again in the sink. But eventually they’re curled up together in bed, naked and tangled, and loving every touch, every inch, of one another’s skin, and Ron feels more completely relaxed and at peace than he has since before the twins transfigured his teddy bear.

There will be a morning. There will be more beyond that. There will be Ginny to deal with, and then the rest of his family, and the Grangers as well, and who knows what all else. It’s going to be a huge mess.

But he knows that this is where they belong, where they’ve always belonged, and nothing matters beyond that.

“I love you,” he murmurs, and hears it repeated to him in unison, and then he’s sinking, fading happily  into the black.

The End

Of Part One