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Notes: Written for the Harry/Ron FQF. Harry breaks up with someone; Ron picks up the pieces. Post-Hogwarts category.
When Harry stumbles into his study at two a.m., soot-stained and wild-eyed, Ron isn't surprised. The Floo coughs up ash behind him and Harry stumbles; and Ron's there before he can even think about it, catching Harry before he falls.
Harry's face is rough with stubble against his neck; his breath hot and reeking of alcohol. His hands are trembling where they clutch Ron's sleeves, marking white cotton with black smudges of ash. He looks like he's trying to say something, but all his throat manages to produce is a hoarse sob.
Ron spares a moment to be glad that Michael isn't here--that Michael's left, because he doesn't think he could put up with another cold morning of unspoken spite--mornings after Harry had stumbled in on Ron and Michael making love, mornings after Michael had walked into Ron's study to see Harry in his arms, sagging and flushed with drink. Mornings when Michael sat by the kitchen window in his old bathrobe, knuckles white around the Daily Prophet, and refused to speak to him.
No. It's good that Michael's gone--because Harry's here, Harry's always here, and Harry is, as always, blind to anyone's needs but his own.
Ron doesn't even bother asking who it is this time--which of Harry's lovers left him, how many months she put up with him, with his drinking, with his shouting, before she left.
Instead he hooks an arm around Harry's stomach as one would around a pup's--Harry slumps against him--and with the other he reaches up to remove his own glasses and Harry's, placing both pairs carefully on the desk. He knows from past experience that Harry'll likely knock them off on the way to the bathroom.
Harry stinks of vomit and drink and the strangely wet, earthy scent of mud--Harry's robes are caked with it, which means that he must have fallen down many times tonight.
Ron doesn't say get out of my fucking house get out get out, he doesn't, even though it's on the tip of his tongue as it always is; even though he feels his heart beat once, loudly, as if in anger.
'Come on, let's get you clean,' he murmurs instead. Absent-mindedly. Everything feels pre-charted, pre-drawn, each movement of his helping Harry to the bathroom--everything feels like a script well-rehearsed, so well-rehearsed that he doesn't even have to think before speaking the lines.
Harry plays his part as well--winding his arms around Ron's neck as he always does, muttering things--she left Ron she said she said--and Ron doesn't even bother listening, because he knows Harry's words as well as he knows his own. He no longer wonders if it's okay to hate Harry as much as he does now, with Harry's eyes red-rimmed and half-mad, glittering as though with fever. Sometimes Ron thinks that Sirius' death started it, all those years ago--this downward spiral, Harry locking himself up tighter and tighter, fucking everything in sight, drinking everything in sight. Or maybe Harry's just a bastard, like Michael always said, and Ron's a fool for putting up with him.
Harry lurches into the familiar niche of shower when Ron pushes him in--stands there panting, eyes glazed, as Ron undoes Harry's robes and lets them fall to the floor in a sodden heap. Ron kicks them aside and out of the shower's edge--and unbuttons Harry's shirt too, revealing a pale chest blotched with Harry's strangely irregular flush. Pasty white skin acrid with sweat and smoke--Harry's at his unseemliest now, with dark circles under his eyes and the muscles of his shoulders hollowed out--and it's a supreme irony that Ron still wants him, that Ron is capable of wanting him--now, after so many years, as he tugs Harry's arms out of his shirt and runs his fingers, without thinking about it, along the gleaming lines of Harry's chest.
He pulls away, of course, when Harry makes a strange, ragged sound--that sound is practiced too, as is Ron's pulling away. He helps Harry step out of his pants before he turns the knobs--backing out of the shower just in time as the first cold spray hits--making Harry gasp and curse--before the water warms and Harry relaxes, his head tilted up and his eyes closed, and his eyelashes no longer look clumped with tears. He leans back against the shower wall and seems to forget that Ron's there, watching him--standing outside and watching him through the steam, to make sure he doesn't fall. Of course. That's the only reason Ron ever watches him now.
But Harry does open his eyes and blink when Ron stops the water ten minutes later--Harry's skin is clean now, mud and sweat and ash sluiced off under the shower. He looks beautiful, although Ron doesn't spare more than a moment's thought for it--his hair glistening wet, both the hair on his head and the curls between his legs, water dripping from his fingers and his nose and his soft, quiescent cock. Ignoring this, too, has become habit--and when Ron takes Harry's wet arm in his hands and hauls him out, it is only habit to pretend that he doesn't feel Harry's body collide with his--it is only habit to pretend that he couldn't have been more gentle, that he couldn't have avoided contact altogether.
There is no bitter burn of guilt, of hatred, in Ron's mouth when he finally lifts the towel to dry Harry off. There is no guilt when he tugs on Harry's hair a little too hard and Harry winces--there is no hate when he's gentler on Harry's arms, his back, down his legs and up between them, until Harry's cock begins to harden.
Harry likes women. This is a well-known fact; well-known because Harry's fucked so many women, maybe even loved so many of them--well-known because Harry's always made sure that it was, even though Ron still remembers the feel of Harry's young cock in his hands, his mouth, before they graduated from Hogwarts.
Ron is almost tempted, at times like these, to see if it still feels the same--he is tempted to just drop the towel and wrap his hand around, move his hand up, move his hand down, make Harry come like this, standing with his face buried in Ron's neck, skin quivering and damp against Ron's shirt, sobbing his release.
But Ron doesn't--because Harry had made it plain, all those years ago, that he wasn't a freak--that he wanted a wife and he wanted children, and we'd only been drunk that time, Ron, yeah, it didn't mean anything, yeah? He'd made it plain enough when the Weasleys stopped seeing Ron, but Harry kept seeing them anyway--and only Charlie ever dropped by to say hello, and Ron got a job in London working for the Muggle Relations department, away from the hubbub of the wizarding world, away from everything, everything, and found himself a male lover instead.
Ron thinks of the name in an oddly distracted fashion as he reaches over Harry's shoulder for the bathrobe hung on the door--Michael's bathrobe, worn old with age and smelling only of soap now; nothing like Michael's skin.
Harry rocks against him instinctively, eyes half-closed with exhaustion and still fever-glazed--and Ron wants to tell him you're hard and you're with a man, Harry, how's that? But he doesn't, of course. He only drapes the robe around Harry and tugs him out of the bathroom, switching the light off and vowing to take care of Harry's clothes later. Harry makes a vague complaining sound at being pushed away from Ron's body--but he's more tired now than he was before, calmed and no longer trembling after the shower, the warmth of it making his muscles lax and cooperative. Ron maneuvers him into the dark bedroom carefully--making sure Harry doesn't hit his head or stub his toe on the way--and if Harry mouths his neck Ron pays no mind, if Harry's cock brushes against his own on the way, Ron doesn't notice.
Of course he doesn't.
Harry slides into bed easily when pushed--body slumping onto the sheets, strangely quiet, like a tired child. Harry's always been a quiet drunk--it's only when he's sober that he shouts, that he throws things, that he fights. Still, tired as he is, Harry lifts his hips in search of contact--but Ron doesn't give it to him, pulling the blankets up instead, placing a hand on Harry's forehead to gauge his temperature.
But it is a touch against his own face that startles him--in the darkness he hadn't even noticed Harry's hand lifting silently upwards--and the shock of it holds him still, for a moment, bent over Harry as he is, as Harry's fingers run down the side of his face and feather across his brow, only to settle, in a light, warm weight, against his lips.
This is not rehearsed.
This is not in the script.
That alone keeps Ron where he is--and he notices that Harry's eyes are open now, twin glimmers in the darkness, looking at him.
Harry's fingers are steady on his lips--and suddenly, even though Ron knows that Harry's drunk, Harry doesn't seem very drunk at all.
But then Harry's hand falls--slowly, as silently as it had risen--and Ron finds that he can barely breathe, but Harry closes his eyes anyway.
Harry mumbles something--something that could be love you or good night or I'm sorry--but it's probably none of those things, Ron knows--it's probably just that girl's name, the girl who left Harry today.
When Harry falls asleep Ron doesn't stay to watch him--doesn't stay to lie down beside him, to see what it would be like--once, just once, because Harry had always run afterwards, when they were young. Never a night spent together. Never a night.
Instead Ron returns to his study, blinking at the sudden bright light of it after the dark of his bedroom--and he puts on his glasses again and pours himself a glass of whiskey, and sits down to finish writing his report for the MR department. He goes to sleep some time before dawn, arms crossed on his desk and head cushioned on them--and his last thought is, as his glasses dig into his face and he can't be bothered taking them off again--Merlin, I've turned into Percy.
It is only two hours past dawn when the the first knock wakes him up--loud and urgent--followed by another, followed by another, until Ron hauls himself up unsteadily and walks to the front door, wiping the saliva from his mouth and squinting through his smudged glasses.
The morning air is cold when he opens the door. That's his first thought as he shivers in his thin shirt--and it doesn't even perturb him to see the woman standing there, hair tied back neatly over her cloak, dressed in a quiet, demure sort of red.
It occurs to Ron how he must look--eyes red with exhaustion, shirt rumpled, hair wild--but she says nothing about it, doesn't even raise her eyebrows, and asks instead:
'Is Harry Potter here?'
And then Ron knows who she is, although he'd never really doubted.
She looks startled that he knows her name, so he replies: 'Yeah, he's here. He was talking about you...'
This, too, is new--this is the first time someone's come for Harry here, to this hidden corner of Muggle London, to hunt out the outcast Weasley's home.
He steps back to let her in--and there is the same mild hostility in her eyes that he expects to see in any girlfriend of Harry's, because he's Harry's faggot friend, after all, the one Harry keeps visiting at all hours of the night.
But he's polite when he offers her tea, and she's just as polite when she turns him down--and he leads her to the bedroom where she stands staring at Harry, and then at the other half of the bed, which has obviously been unoccupied.
Ron thinks about telling her that Harry had come by Floo, since Ron's Floo is locked to anyone but Harry, Hermione and Michael--but it's none of her business, after all, and she's here to take Harry, and it looks like she hasn't left him after all.
'I've got a Portkey to take him home,' she says quietly, and extracts a somewhat broken-down comb from her robe pocket. Ron watches her carefully--the wrinkles on her not-so-young skin, the strange honesty of her eyes, the frown line that seems deeply etched between her brows. She isn't beautiful. She isn't even pretty. But her hand doesn't hesitate in smoothing down Harry's hair when she sits on the bed beside him, and when she places the Portkey in Harry's sleep-open palm, she looks up at Ron and says: 'Thank you.'
Ron snorts. Something sharp and hot tangles in his chest when he watches her touch him--and he finds himself saying to her: 'You're a fool.' For taking him back.
He'd expected her to be shocked, angry, insulted--but her mouth only curls, sardonic and odd, and she says: 'So are you.'
Then she's wrapping her fingers around Harry's, the Portkey pressed between them--and she whispers the password before glancing back at Ron once more--and Ron doesn't know whether to laugh at what she's said, or to tell her to fuck off, or to thank her for taking Harry the fuck away, but then the air around them ripples and there is a soft 'pop', and between one blink and the next she and Harry are gone.
The bed is empty.
He realizes this, somewhat distantly, seeing how the sheets had curled themselves around Harry's form as ripples in water do around a stone--and it occurs to him too late that they've taken Michael's bathrobe with them, and that perhaps he should have asked.
Well. No matter now.
He heads back to the study and stares at his papers--scattered over the desk, untidy--and he gathers them up and puts them in his satchel before going to the bathroom to brush his teeth, stepping around the still-smelling lump of Harry's robes.
Seven already. His report's done, thank Merlin. As is the note he'll owl to Hermione from the office today (everything's all right). Harry's home. Michael's gone. He has to buy some actual food today, since what Michael had bought two weeks ago has finally run out.
The Daily Prophet's waiting for him on the doorstep before he has his breakfast--tea, toast, little else--and he skims it carelessly, yet more gossip and speculation on Harry Potter's disappearance from a local pub last night, and on whether the Man Who Lived's engagement to Muggleborn Susan Corner will survive after all. Voldemort's death obviously hasn't saved Harry from the spotlight.
There are a few photographs of Susan--of Harry smiling at her, caught coming out of their home with her hand in his--and she doesn't look half so weary there, half so tired, and perhaps she is somewhat pretty after all.
He throws the paper in the bin before Flooing out to work--clutching his satchel close to him as he grabs a fistful of Floo powder, and before he leaves the last things he sees, in surprise, are Harry's forgotten spectacles on his desk.
* FIN *