NOTES AND DISCLAIMERS: Harry Potter, etc is the intellectual property of JK Rowling. I'm making no money here and have no intentions to do so ever. Thanks to Helen, kel and Younger for first draft fixing. Thanks to Younger, Mosca, Missy and kel. Title from a poem by Rupert Brooke.


CREDULOUS HEARTS




A bridegroom in May, a widower in November. Ron almost wore the same dress robes to the funeral as to the wedding until Ginny took the robes out of his hands.

Luna had died like her mother, a spell gone wrong, an experiment. She hadn't left notes so Ron never knew what left her on the kitchen floor, wand in hand, that expression of surprise on her face. It wasn't fear or pain and Ron thought that was good, somehow. Better than what could have been. He didn't say that to anyone.

The Aurors came anyway, just in case. Voldemort had been dead for four years but there were still dark wizards. The only difference was that no one was afraid of saying their names. The Aurors worked in the kitchen, doing detection-like things. Harry came with them but stayed in the bedroom with Ron, sitting next to him. He didn't say anything.

Hermione came to the funeral and then he didn't see her again until two weeks later. She'd ended things with him when he was twenty. She'd had a load of arguments about how they didn't really work well together and all their fighting reflected that. She always had really good arguments. Ron never had any.

She looked around and then looked sad. She was probably hoping she'd have something to do, something to clean. But Ron had a sister, mother, and two sisters-in-law. The flat had never looked better. Luna had never been one for housework.

Instead of cleaning, Hermione made tea. Ron listened to her talk and thought if they hadn't broken up, he'd still be married now. She said, "Are you going to stay here?"

He hadn't changed anything in the flat since Luna left. Her books and pictures and weird herbs twisted into animal shapes. "Harry said he's thinking of moving. He wants a bigger flat and he thought I might like to move in with him. Not that he can't afford it, but I don't think he wants all that space. So, no, I'm not staying."

"It would be nice to live with Harry again." She smiled. "Will you need help moving? I could come over and --"

"My family's coming."

His mother had boxed up Luna's clothes and put them in the attic at the Burrow shortly after the funeral. His family came out again to help him move out, and when they got to the new flat, half of Luna's things were gone. He figured they'd put it all with everything else of her's in the attic. Both her parents dead now, no brothers or sisters, there was no one but Ron who cared about those things anyway. He almost said something to his father about making them put everything back, but instead; he went into his new bedroom and waited for everyone to be gone.



He'd had the N.E.W.T.s to be an Auror, but Harry had killed Voldemort and the worst of the Death Eaters were locked under nearly unbreakable charms in Azkaban. Ron thought maybe he didn't have to fight anymore. He wanted to do something other than kill or be killed or stop people from being killed. He was tired of death. He'd seen so much of it.

Ron hadn't been good enough for anything but reserve on the professional teams so working for the Ministry in the Department of Magical Games and Sports seemed like the closest thing to being there. Instead it was barely work, a complete relief.

His colleagues were a little quiet around him the first day, but the only way they knew how to be kind was to talk about Quidditch. After a month, it seemed like they all forgot his wife had died. He liked that best of all.

Harry cooked sometimes, Muggle style, and sometimes he brought home take-out. Curries, he said, from a restaurant down the street. Mostly they ate little dinners you could make in the microwave. It took Ron a week to figure out how to make them right. You couldn't just tap them with your wand and do a heating spell; they came out burnt or half-ice. Harry cleaned, too, and dealt with the laundry. It was just like school except they didn't share a room.

Ron felt completely out of sorts. It wasn't right, he thought, Harry taking care of him. That was Ron's job, explaining things to Harry, making Harry feel better. Or just being back-up. Ron knew his place, he always had. Like Darren O'Hare, who was Ron's favorite Keeper, even if he hadn't played for the Cannons, he stopped the goals and waited by the goals.

He must have fallen completely apart and not even noticed.

Luna had asked him out, three months after Hermione ended things. She was never boring and she laughed at all of his jokes, loudly and more than they deserved. It only took a little while to get used to her eccentricities and then he enjoyed them. He liked the mystery. He remembered her staring at him, lying in his bed. She'd said, "You always settle. You never move on your own." Then she'd smiled and added, "I like how it works for me." He hoped she didn't think he hadn't loved her.

But he couldn't keep settling now. He was sure of that. No more falling apart. He thought he should start slow, though. He sat down next to Harry on the couch and said, "Okay, what's this?"

"Telly." Harry grinned.

"Yeah, I got that, Harry. But what's this show?"

Harry glanced at him, checking. He did that a lot. Ron was growing to dislike it. Harry said, "Home Invaders. That girl and her two helpers, they come to people's houses and they re-do two rooms with all the stuff the homeowners have lying around."

"And you like this why?"

"It's just something to watch." Harry shrugged. "We can watch something else."

"Nah, it's fine." Ron thought his dad would love it, all those Muggle devices and saws. The three designer people took a very long time to get things done, using drill things and spray things. And they left the houses looking empty, clean of clutter. But Ron kept watching.

Harry also liked the 'sitcoms.' He would happily spend an evening with his dinner straight out of the box on his lap, the telly on Friends or Coupling. Ron didn't get half the jokes and he got tired quickly of asking Harry to explain them. He explained things to Harry, not the other way around. But everything was off-balance now.



Ron was home with a cold. He'd taken the pepper-up potion, but he still felt horrible. Luna had made amazing pepper-up potion that tasted like caramel. He told her once she should market it, make a bundle, but she'd been more focused on trying to create even more flavors. These days he couldn't eat caramel anymore.

His father came over for lunch, in through the fireplace. Ron got out two of the microwave dinners for them both.

"Ingenious!" His father ran his hands over the picture on the top. "It's all in there, isn't it? Just tap your wand."

"That doesn't work. You have to use the microwave." Ron lifted off the edges to let them breathe, because Harry said it really was essential, and put both in the microwave.

"Are they really good, just like food from the oven?"

"They're very salty." Ron shrugged. "I think Harry just likes 'em because his Aunt Petunia wouldn't ever let them in the house."

"Hmph. Not a very nice woman, not really."

"She never visits at all, either. I think that makes Harry happy." Ron emptied the dinners onto two plates and passed one to his dad who took his plate over to the tiny table and sat down. Ron had been about to eat at the counter like he and Harry usually did, but he followed his father.

"So, Ron, how are you?"

"Got a little cold today." He smiled and ate his salty fish and chips.

"This is quite good, really. I don't think it's too salty. And you just put it in that box and press a few buttons. Amazing what they do with buttons. Make it all so easy." His dad looked around, beaming. Then he said, "You're getting out, though? Right? Not just spending all your time here and work and games."

"We sit in and watch telly, Dad." Then he spent the rest of their lunch telling his dad about all the shows Harry liked. His dad was easy to distract.

The twins weren't so easy. They hadn't made fun of him once in the four months since Luna had died. What he wanted most of all was a snide remark, or a bludger in the back while they claimed they'd missed and were aiming for his nose. He went by the shop and tried on his best smile. He even played stupid and asked how some prank worked so they would set it off in his face.

Fred sighed and said, "Ron. We promised Mum. Six months."

"Six months?"

George looked pained. "Six months of being extra-nice to you and not making sport of you and we promised. Mum. She thinks you're completely wrecked."

Fred said, "She's right, so we're keeping our promise."

"I'm not completely wrecked." Ron was whinging, he knew.



Ron grew to like some of Harry's Muggle programs. The broad comedies where people fell down a lot or the period pieces, those were the best. Otherwise, the telly just made his head hurt and Harry look over him in that gentle way Ron was utterly sick of seeing.

"I'm fine," he said one night.

"Okay then," Harry said and didn't look away from the screen. "You are."

"I mean it, Harry, I'm fine. I know I was, I know people were concerned. But I'm fine now. People shouldn't be treating me differently anymore."

Harry nodded.

"You don't agree at all, do you?"

"I think, Ron, I think you've been through a lot." At least it was Harry so there wouldn't be any pats on the knee or hugs. Harry didn't touch people like that. Ron was very sick of those.

"And now I'm through it. I'm not saying I don't miss her," and then Ron couldn't think of anything more to say. He missed her every day. He felt awful trying to convince everyone he was over it, like she'd simply left him.

He got up and went to bed. Harry didn't say anything at all.



Harry's job as an Auror was much more glamorous and dangerous than Ron's. Some days Harry didn't come home at all, and some mornings he slept long after Ron left.

Ron made sure the flat was stocked with bandages and potions and potion ingredients. Harry came home aching and sometimes bleeding. Still got up every day and put on his glasses and left with something like a smile. Harry liked his job, Ron was pretty sure.

He was home with his curry from down the street and Mr. Bean on the telly when the fire sprang to life. A head in the fire, saying, "Mr. Weasley? Ron Weasley?"

Ron said, "Yes?"

"You need to come down to St. Mungo's, Mr. Potter's been hurt."

Ron spilled his curry on the floor and grabbed his wand from on top of the TV. He Apparated as close as he could get and ran the rest of the way. He felt fifteen again with his heart in his throat and his stomach around his feet.

He saw Harry's supervisor, looking bored outside the door where the witch at the reception desk had told him he could find Harry. Bentley waved. "Ah, good, you're here."

"Is Harry okay?"

"Hmm. He'll be fine in a day or two. Nasty customer today, hex got reversed. He'll be fine." Bentley glared at him for a moment. "Lucian told you that, yes?"

"No. He did not. I thought." Ron took a deep breath. "So why did you have me called?" Stupid bastard hasn't said anything; just let Ron think it was something awful, like it always had been.

"Hmm, he can't do magic for a day or two. He'll be ready to go in a few hours, need someone to take him back. Thought you'd be able to navigate those Muggle trains and the like."

Ron almost slugged him or Lucian, wherever Lucian was, but instead he sat down on the floor and tried to calm down.

Harry looked pale, a few bruises, but mostly okay when Ron got in him to see him. "They should let me leave soon." Harry grunted. "We'll have to take the bus or the train. With this hex, no magic for me."

"I heard." Ron patted the blanket. "I've got a few hexes planned, too, for when we get back since you can't fight back. Fred taught me this one when I was ten and --"

Harry shoved his shoulder and grimaced. "I can hurt you without magic, don't you worry."

Of course, Harry did most of the navigating home and Ron hadn't thought to bring his wallet when he bolted the flat. Luckily for both of them, Harry had a few pounds in his back pocket and they were home by 2 AM. Ron waved his wand and cleaned up the curry, got rid of the rotten smell. He said, "Look, I guess you can't work tomorrow. You can stay home and be bored with your telly, or you can come in with me. If you wanted." Ron shrugged. Harry would go mental sitting at home with no magic. "I've got to monitor some try-outs. Make sure nothing happens, no tricks."

Harry smiled. "Try-outs for Quidditch?"

"That is what I do. You used to be smarter, mate."

Harry came with him in the morning, twirling his wand before putting it in his back pocket with a grimace. Ron put on his wizard hat, plain and black, but he was an official and needed to look serious. He took off his Cannons badge, no bias allowed, either.

They arrived right before everything started. The Arrows were milling around looking smug and the people trying out were staring at each other in alternating moods of bluster and fear. Ron nodded to the coach and assistants and stood by where the men or women would take off from. Best to see any cheating from there. He had omnioculars for the rest of the try-out. Harry stood silently a few steps away.

"Weasley."

That low burr. Ron turned and grinned. "Wheaton." Timothy Wheaton was a Reserve Beater for the Arrows. Ron hadn't seen him in ages. Since before he even dated Luna, but after Hermione had dumped him. Seen him, Ron thought. Seen him drunk, seen him naked. Ron smiled and waved. "Now back off, no interfering with the officials."

"Not interfering. Saying hello, right?" Wheaton with his crooked grin and missing tooth. Not from Quidditch, if Ron remembered right. Something about a flying cauldron and a very angry first year from when Wheaton was at Hogwarts.

"Okay, hello, now let me work. No distracting." Ron grinned. He went back to watching the scared teenagers in the first set mounting their brooms.

"Brought your own anyway," Wheaton said and disappeared into the small crowd of players.

"Am I a distraction?" Harry nudged Ron's elbow.

"Not the way he's thinking," Ron muttered. He said louder, "No, I'm watching."

It was boring, really. With him standing there, the Arrows weren't trying any tricks or showing them to the possible recruits. People nodded at him and looked away quickly, then goggled at Harry and moved on.

"They knew you were coming?" Harry spoke quietly, standing right by Ron now, closer.

"It's a secret, of course, when we show up for these things. But everyone knows."

"You give 'em warning?" Harry was grinning.

"Do not. Don't take bribes, don't place bets, no warning, no bias. I'm on the up and up." Ron snorted as Harry muttered "I know." Ron said, "Don't need the money so much now, but still. The integrity of the game, Harry, it's up to us to make it real."

Harry nodded and covered his mouth. Smirking, Ron thought. He smiled a little himself. He nudged Harry and pointed to the stands. "See the other team's scouts, too?"

"Who's the, er, did that fellow just sneak in to watch?" Harry glanced at the one Ron had first thought was just a pile of rags and one long nose with two warts.

Ron looked down. "That's the Cannons' scout." He sighed.



Harry got better and went right back to work. Once the season started up, Ron's job got even busier. But he could get tickets to any game he wanted. Harry was suddenly free all the time, just in time for the games. It was fun, going to real games with Harry. He talked the whole time about how the Seeker wasn't fast enough and the Beaters didn't compare to Fred and George and how even Draco was better at Quidditch than that fellow.

Luna had only gone to games occasionally. She had liked the Cannons best and designed ever more outrageous hats every time they went. Once she had had a magical cannon on her hat tall enough that Ron had had to look straight up to see the top. She never did get upset about the stares and always cheered loudly. He had been embarrassed, once or twice, her crazy hats and jewelry and her hand firmly in his. But she had always been so herself, he just looked at her and knew he was happy.

He saw an elaborate hat at a match he went to with Harry, a woman wearing a large hat and he stared until she turned around. An old old witch, older than McGonagall and the hat was just silly, laden with flowers. Not like Luna's.

He missed her every day, but it had stopped bringing a lump to his throat when he thought about her.

"I miss being so upset," he said.

Harry looked away from the game. That's friendship, Ron thought. Harry said, "Miss being upset over her?"

"That's," Ron paused. "Wrong, isn't it?"

Harry shook his head. He bit his lip and looked back at the game. It was pretty exciting, Ron thought, but he didn't feel anything. The Wasps' beaters were even better than Fred and George, and Ron never thought that. Harry said, "It means you're getting over, over her death. Not her, but the rest of it."

Ron sighed and stared at the game. Harry had to grab his arm and pull him up when the game was over. Ron hadn't noticed at all.


*


In the twins' shop, Ron was rubbing off the stink sap from the fake quill they'd given him when Fred brought up the possibility of Ron's going out on a date. "Maybe a little soon for that," George said, sniggering.

"Well, I'm better enough that you're playing with me again." Ron frowned and used the end of his shirt to get the rest of it off his face. The smell would last for days or until Ron got home and could use some of that potion Harry had in the bathroom.

"There's better enough to be treated regular and there's regular enough to date."

Fred cocked his head. "Oh, I think he's ready. We should fix him up."

George snorted. "Oh, we very much should."

Fred said, "Yes," George said, "No," and they continued in that vein for a few minutes. Ron ignored them both and browsed. They had a whole new selection of toffees. He had no intention of eating any of them, but they looked very enticing.

"Good work on these," he said.

Fred said, "It's settled. We're setting you up." He glared at George. "Be here tomorrow night, round about seven."

Ron thought about objecting or not showing up, but he knew his brothers.

He didn't tell Harry, just because. If it was a complete disaster, which was what Ron was counting on, he didn't want Harry to know. He didn't dress too nice either, just jeans and a clean t-shirt. He looked in a store window on his way there and made sure his hair wasn't awful. That seemed like enough. Fred and George had probably got him a date with Mundungus.

When he got to the store, it was locked up tight. Ron stamped his feet and pulled out his wand. He could be home with one word.

He decided to check for a note or something when someone tapped on his shoulder. "Ron?"

Timothy Wheaton. "Hullo. It's closed." He pointed at the store and then said, "They told me to meet them here."

Ron groaned. "They said they were setting me up."

"Setting you up? For a joke, then? I got the impression, well, George said, they thought --" Wheaton grimaced and shoved his hands in his pockets. He was in jeans and a t-shirt, too. Looked quite good, Ron thought.

"I'm naturally suspicious with them," Ron said and smiled. "Maybe they did mean well."

"But ran away before we could yell at them, right?" He shrugged and looked a little more relaxed.

"We could always lie. Say the other didn't show up. Send 'em both a Howler in the morning." Ron smirked.

"That's a plan." Wheaton smiled. "In the meantime, are you hungry?"

They had dinner in a little Muggle place, Pizza Express, somewhere near Diagon Alley. Ron always forgot that Wheaton's dad was a Muggle until they were out. He was like Harry that way, comfortable in those places in a way Ron couldn't imagine. He always wanted to gawk like his dad.

But it was a good dinner. They went back to Wheaton's place. Somewhere in the middle, his shirt half off, jeans already open, Ron worried he'd start crying or something mental. First time since Luna, he thought. But he opened his eyes and focused on the man in front of him.

He Apparated home around 2 am and Harry was already asleep.



It was odd, of course. He thought technically, according to some regulations somewhere, he really shouldn't be sleeping with a professional player. But he wasn't a referee. And no one knew. It wasn't about integrity, he thought. There was nothing wrong with just sleeping with someone. He did volunteer to take on more duties relating to the World Cup since Wheaton wouldn't be doing that. He wasn't that good.

And there was a very good reason he didn't tell Harry, even after three weeks of seeing Wheaton more nights that not. He hadn't quite found a way to articulate it in his head or to anyone, but Harry didn't need to know.

Harry never dated. Not that Ron knew. Even at Hogwarts, Harry had only really had a few dates. And after that, when he didn't have to worry so much, Harry was always so awful with girls. Ron thought Harry had decided to just date his telly and Quidditch. So maybe he wouldn't understand about Ron and Wheaton.

Hermione cornered him for lunch one day at the Ministry but dragged him by the elbow to a Muggle pub a few blocks away. After their fish and chips came, she leaned across the table and hissed, "You're seeing a player. You know that's wrong, Ron."

"Hermione," he sighed. "All I'm working on now is the World Cup, coordinating and things like that, it's as boring as cauldron thickness. And he won't play for England. It's not wrong like that."

She rolled her eyes. "That's just an excuse. You're making excuses."

"Hermione." He stared at her. "It's nothing. It's a bit of fun. I think I get some fun, right?"

She looked down. They ate in silence for a few minutes. Ron debated asking her about who she was seeing, how things were going. He didn't see her often enough. She was very important to him, but he let things slide. He settled, he thought. He said, "So, give me something to argue with you about. Seeing someone? Someone you shouldn't? Then we're equal." He tried his brightest smile to see if she'd smile back.

She just kept looking down. Finally she said, "I'm not seeing anyone, Ron. And you, you deserve some fun, but I'm sure you could find someone wonderful who isn't a professional player." She sighed. "Of course, you'll ignore me." And now he got the smile. Hermione was so pretty when she smiled.

"Well, maybe if you had some books to back you up."

"I imagine you know those regulations better than I do." She glared at him and then smiled again. "Anyway, you've said your piece."

She was quiet again. Ron played with his food and said, "Do you think I settle, Hermione?"

"Settle?" She pushed her hair behind her ears.

"Like, settle for things."

She stared at him for a moment. "I don't think so. Really, no. You tried out for the Quidditch team back in school without really telling anyone and all those, well, you remember. That's not settling."

"But." Ron thought about how Luna had meant it. "It's more like, when I was with you, I never asked you out until someone told me to."

Hermione's eyes widened and then she glared at him. "Someone told you to?"

Ron pressed his lips together. Then, "I meant, I, of course I liked you. I very much liked you. Very fond of you. And then someone said that you liked me and I thought about it and I decided to do something about it. So it wasn't like I was persuaded into it or something mental like that. It was that I needed that push." He waited to see if she exploded at him or not.

She kept glaring at him but she said, "Alright then. Well, what about Luna? Did someone tell you about that?"

He smiled at his plate. "She did."

"And then, what?" Still an edge in Hermione's voice.

"Then I went out with her and she was funny and she made me laugh and she had this way of looking at things." He sighed. "I asked her to marry me. You know all this."

She pursed her lips. Then, "And this Quidditch player?"

"Fred and George. Set us up, I guess." Ron frowned. "I do settle, I think."

"Except you really don't. You have to be pushed and then you act. I think you're complacent and not very self-aware at all. That's not settling." She forced a smile. He could tell.

"Hmph." He smiled. "I reckon you're right."

There was another pause. She said primly, "How many, er, men have there been, Ron?"

Hermione was such a Muggle sometimes. He thought and said, "Five. No, Six. But that's different. Wheaton and I, that's not. Not the same."

She shrugged. "So you're not settling. Who pushed you to ask me out?" Her eyes narrowed.

"Harry." Ron grinned.

"Harry?" She laughed. "He's even more clueless than you about these things."

"Oh, completely." Ron laughed. "With his own girls, completely. He's so impossible. But we'd been fighting at breakfast and I said you were impossible and made no sense and he said you fancied me and I fancied you and there wasn't anything impossible about it, just very annoying for everyone else."

Hermione smiled and said, "Oh, Harry." Another pause. "He's not seeing anyone, of course."

"Not so I've noticed. I don't think he minds it, doesn't much like being paired up much."

"He's just not very good at it." She sounded firm. "Those awful Dursleys and all the, er, adventures at school. He doesn't know how, I think."

Ron shrugged again and wished he'd ordered more food. He was still a little hungry. But he needed to get back to work before the Hungarian representative for the World Cup owled back about the preliminaries. He nodded at Hermione as she rattled on about Harry's love life and how he maybe if he'd been hugged more, everything would be easier. She was so odd sometimes.



He accidentally spent the whole night at Wheaton's flat. He woke with the sun in his eyes and thought, bugger this. He was going to be late to work, too, even if he Apparated straight home. He shook Wheaton awake and said, "Gotta head out, mate, talk to you later?"

Wheaton batted at his hand and muttered something like bye or sod off. Not a morning person. Ron barely felt alive himself. He got dressed and went home.

He had showered and dressed in clean clothes, shoved his hat and robe into his bag for the commute there and was halfway through the living room before he saw Harry sitting on the living room couch. He was glaring at Ron. This wouldn't be pleasant. "Hullo?"

"Where were you last night?" Oddly flat tone for all the anger in Harry's face.

Like one of Harry's sitcoms, Ron said, "Out." Not like it was Harry's business. Except that they were best friends and used to tell each other everything. "Out with a friend, got a little pissed, slept there. I need to check in now?"

Harry stood up. He looked awful. "I was worried. You're always out but you always come back. I worried."

"I'm sorry." Ron had his hand on the doorknob. Late, he was going to be late.

Harry sat back down and rubbed his hair. It looked even worse than usual. "Are you even going to tell me where you're going all the time?" That wasn't a flat tone or an angry one. It was sort of pathetic. Ron felt like an ass.

"Just this bloke I'm sort of seeing. Don't worry."

Harry blinked a few times and looked at his feet. He was still wearing his trainers like he'd got home from work and just sat there until Ron showed up. Ron was going to spend the whole day feeling about as tall as a puffskein. Maybe something even smaller. Pixie perhaps. Harry said, "I'm going to get some sleep." He walked right into his room and closed the door. Didn't even slam it. Little pixie babies, Ron thought. He was low like those.



When he got home for dinner, Harry was gone. Work, Ron thought. Hoped. Ron didn't go out once in four days but he still never saw Harry. Ron was reduced to going into Harry's room to make sure Harry was even coming home to sleep. But the sheets were mussed. Harry was a horrible housekeeper in his own room. He kept the living room and kitchen spotless, but never the place he slept.

Ron took a day off from work and stayed awake for 24 hours. Somewhere around hour 22 Harry finally came home. Ron said, "Who're you seeing, Harry? Good kisser?"

Harry frowned. "You want your privacy to do your things, I'm giving it to you."

"Privacy? Not avoiding me?" Ron heard his voice crack. Stupid to be worried now about Harry and him not being friends. After all these years.

"Avoiding you." Harry smiled. "It's really hard work."

"Miss your programs?"

"Horribly." Harry sat down on the couch next to Ron and grabbed the remote thing. "Had to work all night and now there's nothing bleeding on."

Ron fell asleep on Harry's shoulder.



Ron went to an Arrows game and saw Wheaton. The Arrows' Seeker was amazing this year; the game was so short Wheaton never played. Ron turned around to leave and Wheaton was right next to him. "You haven't rung in a week. Got in trouble, did you?"

Ron shook his head. "Just didn't ring."

"Bloody rude way to break things off." Wheaton shrugged. "If that's what you're doing."

"I reckon I am." Ron tucked his program into his robe. "Sorry."

Wheaton shrugged again. "Well, you were never one for staying anyway."

"It's not you, it's me." Ron grinned. "Sorry."

"Nah, you're not. But you're good in the sack, so I'll still take you back someday. But just for the night." Wheaton laughed and walked away. Ron waited until he couldn't see him to start laughing himself.



They were watching Coupling and hadn't said anything to each other in hours when Harry said, "You were seeing a man?"

Ron blinked. "A month ago. Five weeks now, I think."

"You were?" Harry's eyes were locked on the telly.

"I was. Yes. Wasn't the first, also. He played Quidditch. I'm trying to think of other questions you might ask in two months or so. Or a fortnight after that." Ron smiled.

"You never told me. You usually tell me something." Harry shifted in his seat. "Usually everything. Even things I don't care at all about."

"Like what?" Ron licked his lips.

Harry just frowned and crossed his arms. Ron said, "What?"

"Answer the question."

"What question?" Ron grabbed the remote and turned off the TV. He was pretty sure he did it wrong because he could never turn it off or on correctly according to Harry. He didn't understand how there could be a right and wrong way.

"Why didn't you tell me? Why were you hiding it from me?" Harry didn't sound calm. Ron felt his stomach wobble.

"I wasn't. Hiding." Ron took a deep breath. "Maybe I was, but it wasn't hiding. It was more like not telling." Ron thought he sounded like Luna. Except he didn't, because Luna would simply say things without dancing around them.

Ron said, "I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to know. I was trying to avoid this. You're weird about things."

Harry laughed. "That works." He grabbed the remote and cursed a few times until he got the TV turned on again.


*


Nothing changed. Ron went to work and matches, Harry went off to save the world and watched telly, and it was all the same. Except Ron didn't date and there was no shagging at all.

Ron liked sex. He liked how long it lasted, something Harry and his Muggle shows said wasn't the case for non-magic folks. He liked the way it felt. He liked sweating and exertion and all of it. And with Hermione and Luna, when he'd been in love, he'd loved seeing them. Hermione would be so flushed, her cheeks bright red but her forehead and neck pale pale white. She would sweat and her hair would be slicked back and she'd smile, her tongue between her teeth and he still blushed when he pictured her like that. Amazing. Luna had been loud and she'd stop speaking actual words, just syllables that meant nothing. The rasp of her voice towards the end, that was his favorite thing. How much she put into being with him.

He'd waited so long to finally do it, his sixth year at Hogwarts, that he felt from that moment on he was not going without something that good ever again. Until Luna died and then until he broke up with Wheaton.

The oddness of it all was that Ron didn't notice until it had been two months. Then he didn't really think on it.

They were eating more bad food out of silver plastic trays and watching some show that was giving Ron a headache when Harry said, "Not seeing anyone lately at all, are you?"

"Busy at work." Ron almost grinned, that was a handy explanation.

"But you're sitting here now. You could be out." Harry waved his hand like 'out' was somewhere to the left of where they were sitting. Ron stared past his hand and thought 'out' was apparently Harry's bedroom. Funny thought, that. Harry's bedroom never saw any action.

"My head hurts." Because of the telly, he was tired of concentrating on what it all meant and why it was supposed to be funny.

Harry turned it off. "Better?" He smiled and then looked back at his food. He'd finished ages ago. Harry always ate quickly.

Ron shrugged. "Sorry, mate, I just don't get it. Can't we listen to the radio sometimes? We get wizarding wireless."

"Could have brought up that up before." Harry took Ron's tray and carried both back to the kitchen. He fiddled with the radio until they heard the Weird Sisters. Harry came back over and sat next to Ron. "Remember when they played at the Ball?"

"They were good, weren't they?"

Harry shrugged. "I didn't listen much." He was smiling, though, like it was a good memory.

"Only time I've ever seen 'em playing live." Ron stretched out his legs and put his feet up on the little table in front of the sofa. Funny they always ate with their trays in their laps and never on the table. Ron yawned.

"You should go to sleep," Harry said, nudging his thigh. "Old man, sleeping at nine." He sniggered.

"I'm worn out." He closed his eyes.

Harry pushed at his thigh. "Then sleep in your own bed, don't take up our sofa." Harry pulled him up and Ron opened his eyes to stagger the rest of the way to his room. He wished he knew why he was so tired.

He hadn't realized Harry had followed him into his room he felt Harry's hand at his back, shoving him into bed. Harry was never very good at the gentle gestures. Ron grinned up at Harry looming over his bed while he pulled of his socks and trousers. Then his shirt and he pulled the covers up. "Night, then. This old man is sleeping. Keep the carousing down, son." Ron closed his eyes and smiled.

He was already half-asleep a minute later. Then he felt Harry breathing close, on his cheek. Harry touched him, his fingers soft against Ron's neck, his collarbone. Then a kiss, an actual kiss against his cheek. Ron didn't open his eyes until he heard Harry close the door. He blinked at the darkness and wondered what the hell had just happened.



In the morning he realized that Harry still thought he was taking care of Ron. Ron the widower, Ron the sad. Like Ron's mum coming into the room after the funeral and tucking him into bed. It had been almost a year since Luna died. He really was better. No coddling needed.

He stabbed his quill into his finger as he thought about it. He was very much better. Ron the wreck was a thing of the past. He sucked at his finger. He had three owls to respond to about the World Cup. Better, he thought. Arse, he thought. Stupid Harry.

By the time he got home was furious. So he hadn't gone out in a bit, so he got a little tired. Maybe Harry should try planning a World Cup of Quidditch some time. He didn't think Harry had forgotten the one they went to back at school. Ron stamped around the living room for a few minutes. He turned on the radio, loud, to Quidditch scores and play-by-play.

Harry came home late. Ron wasn't as mad by then, having smashed and repaired a few dishes and banged up the wall a little with Harry's Muggle bouncing ball. It was sort of sweet. Harry took a deep breath when he got in the door and stood still by the door. "You look annoyed." He fiddled with his shirt.

"Harry, I'm fine. I don't need to be coddled or taken care of or anything. Really, I'm fine. You should know that."

Harry pressed his lips together and then said, "Alright. Why are we talking about this now, Ron?"

"Last night."

"I turned on the radio?" Harry kept fidgeting with his shirt and started walking around Ron to his room.

"I meant after. You think I'm all wrecked --" but he stopped because Harry's face had gone white and he stumbled a foot outside the door to his bedroom. "Or not," he muttered.

"It was just a joke. Just taking a piss. I think you're fine," Harry said quickly and then went into his bedroom and slammed the door.

Ron swore quietly.




He didn't get any work done and after two hours he went to his boss. He stood by Rufus's desk and talked in a monotone about how his head hurt and how tired he was and how everything was dragging him down. After two minutes Rufus looked up, his eyes widened and he said, "You need to go home? Head hurts?"

Ron nodded. Rufus said, "Go home, then, see you in the morning." Rufus turned back to the papers on his desk. He always thought no one in the office noticed that he wore a Muggle hearing aid he'd charmed to replay his favorite Wasp games from the last ten years.

Ron took off his robe and hat and shoved both in his bag and walked out of the Ministry. Ron ambled for twenty minutes and ended up in a park. He'd never figured out London, really, he just knew how to get to places around the flat and the Ministry.

He sat on a bench and stared at the pigeons.

He wasn't stupid. He knew Harry hadn't been joking. Remus had said once that wizards liked to make everything fancy and complicated, but the simplest thing was often the easiest answer. All those riddles and complicated solutions. Ron sighed.

Harry was most likely in love with him. Or thought he was, which was the same thing.

Harry didn't date. Not much. Rarely ever. Ron had thought that had more to do with being the Boy Who Lived and then the Boy Who Killed Voldemort. Not so much a boy, though, really, ever. Even at eleven he'd been old inside. Ron wondered if he was being maudlin. Mostly, Ron thought, Harry was, Harry was something Ron couldn't put his finger on but he knew. He knew in his gut, not even a word or series of words he could say. If Hogwarts ever taught a course in Harry, Ron would not only get a N.E.W.T. in it, he'd be the one doing the testing.

Ron sighed. The question he was avoiding was what was next. He wished fervently Luna were there; she always had excellent advice in her own way about what to do about things. Everything. He imagined telling her all of it. He thought she'd cock her head to one side and say, "Well, do you love him?"

Of course, he thought. Of course, I do.

She'd say, "So this isn't much of an issue at all, is it? You love him, he loves you, I'm dead. Sounds like a nice set-up, right?"

Ron smiled. But I don't know if I love him enough, the right way. I never thought of him like that, he thought.

He imagined her shrugging. "Think of him now. Do you want to?"

Ron pictured Harry, and he thought of Harry laughing at the telly, a little curry on his lip. He thought of Harry, pale and weak, sitting by his bed at St. Mungo's after that last battle with Voldemort. Ron's last battle with anyone. He much preferred Quidditch. Harry always looked happy playing Quidditch. And now that Ron thought about it, quite attractive as well.

Luna in his head poked him. "So that answers that. You love him in the right way when forced to think about it, and you're his very best friend, so you'll be wonderful."

Maybe Luna wouldn't want him with Harry, Ron thought. Maybe she'd think he should never love again. Luna would want him to be happy, though, he was sure.

He got home in the afternoon. He thought Harry wouldn't be home, but he was. When Ron walked in, Harry was catching a Snitch, letting it go again and watching telly, like always. Harry glanced at Ron and for a moment he looked worried. Then he smiled and said, "Why are you home early?" He put the Snitch in its box on the table.

"Because. I skipped off, claimed I had a headache." Ron took a deep breath. "I was thinking about you, actually. Ha, right? Because I was thinking, Harry --"

Harry looked worried again, and pale. He said, "Ron, look --"

"No talking over me, here, come on, I was just thinking, about us, here. And us --"

"You're moving out?" Harry's voice cracked.

"No, and there was a part I just said about not talking over me. Harry, I've been thinking about you and I was wrong the first time but I know you were, er." Ron rubbed his face. He didn't know the words.

So he walked over two steps and took Harry's stubbly chin in his hands and kissed him. Harry jerked and then opened his mouth, his tongue tentative against Ron's. Ron let go and Harry stepped back. He stared at Ron and blinked a few times. He said quietly, "What was that?"

Ron said, "Me kissing you. We should do more."

Harry nodded and then looked around, almost spinning in a circle. "Wait, what?"

"You. Me. Let's do this."

"Like an assignment?" Harry backed up again and hit his legs on the sofa. "Like, what?"

"Stop thinking so much, Harry. I'm fond of you, you're fond of me." Ron grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him into Ron's bedroom. Harry stumbled and fell onto the bed. He looked very panicked. That wouldn't do.

Ron sat on the bed next to him and said, "Was it a bad kiss?"

Harry smiled. "No, not at all. Aren't we, er, I assume now we're going to --"

"Well, yes. So let's get to that." Ron rolled on top of Harry and kissed him quiet. They kissed for a long time, Ron pushing one hand up under Harry's shirt and Harry slowly touching Ron's back and then down to cup Ron's ass. Then Harry flipped them both over so he was lying on top of Ron, smiling, he sat up and pulled off his shirt. He pulled off Ron's and smiled more.

They were naked and kissing more and hands everywhere and somewhere in the midst of that, Ron thought they were moving too fast. He tried to slow down Harry down, even say they were rushing but Harry was suddenly manic and pushing and kissing.

Harry didn't say anything until he pushed Ron's legs against his chest and it was just, "Okay? Right?" Ron grunted his assent.

So fast, Harry was very fast. It was over quickly and Harry flopped down next to Ron, smiling. Harry said, "Wow."

Ron glanced at him and pulled at the covers. "Yeah?"

Harry's face fell. "No?"

"Er." Ron rubbed Harry's arm and said again, "Er."

Harry said, "I thought that was, it was the best I've ever --" Harry turned his back to Ron. "Well. I don't know. I guess we won't again --"

Ron touched Harry's back, still damp with sweat. "No, that's not, wait. Best? Oh, hell, Harry, we have to do it again then because you've no idea." He sat up a little and kissed Harry's shoulder.

Ron fell asleep. He woke up and felt a slight ache, first, and then he remembered everything. He sat up and saw that Harry, naturally, was not in the bed anymore. Ron thought about his N.E.W.T in Harry Potter. Ron didn't bother getting dressed. Harry wasn't in the living room or his bedroom. Robes and bag gone. Ron cursed.

He owled in sick to work. He put on trousers and sat on Harry's bed. Harry had to come home at some point. Ron could wait.

He'd fallen asleep, though, by the time Harry came back. He woke up to Harry's bedroom door opening and Harry's hesitant, "Ron?"

"Yes." Ron sat up. "You could've woke me before you left."

Harry frowned and stayed in the doorway. "Let's just forget it, alright?"

"No." Ron got up and pulled Harry onto the bed. "Not at all. You wanted this for a while, right?"

Harry shrugged and tried to stand up, but Ron pushed him back. "Fine," Ron said, "Don't say it, but let's, let's do it right before you give up."

Harry flopped back on the bed and sighed. "Right? Wasn't proper last night, because if it wasn't, I just don't --"

"Harry." Ron lay down next to him. "Relax. It's you and me, mate, it'll be fine. We make it through the rough parts." Harry sighed again.

Ron kissed Harry, without moving closer or touching him anywhere. Harry lay there for a moment, drawing back, doing nothing. Then he reached out and touched Ron's shoulder. Ron moved forward a centimeter and said, "See? Fine."

Harry looked away, somewhere over Ron's shoulder. He took off his glasses and placed them carefully on his nightstand. Then he tugged at Ron so they were close together as they kissed.

It was slow and right. Except for the parts that ended up being fast, but still right. Harry panted and his whole body flushed when he came.

"Best ever," Ron said, pulling up Harry's ancient quilt over both them. "Right?"

Harry just moved closer. But he was smiling.



They fit together easily. Ron remembered fighting all the time in the first month of his marriage. Luna slamming doors and hexing his toothbrush when Ron wouldn't clean the dishes after dinner and Ron yelling at her when she would leave out her potion ingredients all over the table. He and Harry never had those sorts of fights. They'd already lived together and they'd been friends for so long. All the rough parts were over.

Ron hadn't exactly told anyone, but his parents seemed to know after a week and Hermione took him out for a long lunch where she never out and out said it, but made it clear that he should be careful and Harry was never an easy person and more things like that. Neville invited himself over for dinner one night out of the blue and stared at both of them when he thought they weren't looking. Apparently they passed his test as he gradually loosened up after eating his take-out curry, even staying for three games of Exploding Snap.

Ron came home early one day, a few weeks after they'd start sleeping together, going together, whatever word they were applying to things between them. Ron thought it was the kind of thing that could go on forever, only getting deeper and better.

Harry came in just a few minutes after Ron and said quietly, "I thought we might go out for dinner."

"You did? Something special, then?"

Harry glanced at Ron and then down at the floor. "Well, today being what it is."

Ron looked at the calendar, the Cannon Seeker waving to him above the month and days. He'd forgotten. A beautiful day in May two years before, his expensive new dress robes he never wore again, Luna with her hair down and no hat at all for once. He said, "Yes. Let's go out."

Harry said, "She looked really lovely that day, I remember."

"She did." Ron sighed and said, "Right, dinner. Let's go."

THE END.

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