Disclaimer: Surely no one is silly enough to believe that I own these characters, or this world? JK Rowling does and I'm only playing with them. I promise they'll be happy when I put them back.
Author's notes: This series is supposed to cover the last two years of school for Harry and Ron. It discusses child abuse, underage consensual sex between two people who love each other, and will eventually cover MPREG as well. If any of these topics offend you please turn back now. In addition, I have tried to follow cannon as best as I can, but you know how it goes…I'll have messed something up somewhere along the way. I know their birthdays are wrong, but lets just allow for artistic licence and no one will get hexed.
Further warnings: by now this could probably be called an AU if that would make anyone feel better. And forgive me for the Quidditch match - I'm the shape of a Quaffle and sport just ain't my thing! Also, by now you'll have realised that my Harry ain't a happy carefree lad - though he has his moments. If this is a problem for you, back out gracefully now. There's an exit to the left.
Part 3 - Second Term, Sixth Year
Mondays started with double Charms, followed by double Transfiguration, Herbology, and Divination. As Harry quite enjoyed Charms and Transfiguration now that he was allowed to participate once more, he found himself eager to get to classes on a Monday. Ron had become used to his partners fidgeting and would often send a soothing message along Harry's fingers in an effort to calm him down. It rarely worked, but Harry loved him for it anyway.
"Ron! Look at this!" Seamus had beaten them to the Great Hall that morning and was waving a paper in their faces as they walked to their usual seats. Harry paid the owl that was waiting by their plates and Ron snatched the paper from his hand before he could unroll it.
"I'll just give that to you then, shall I?" Harry asked dryly and started piling bacon and eggs onto toast, adding a few chipolatas to their shared plate as well. He hated kippers, and if Ron fancied some he'd let the redhead dish up his own. Ron had flattened the paper out and was pouring over the front page with a very intent look.
"What's up then?" Harry asked, elbowing his friend to one side so he could see the headlines too.
'Bagman fails to bag Quidditch pitches!' the words took up the top half of the page, and Ludo Bagman could be seen underneath running into a house and slamming the front door firmly. A quick perusal of the page informed Harry that the head of Magical Games and Sports had somehow managed to reveal the sites of several Quidditch pitches to a group of Muggles, who were now using them to play football. Bagman had thought that he might be able to generate a bit of money by leasing the pitches to the Muggles, and holding the Quidditch games there at night. The teams affected were furious, and it was also looking bad for the International league, as there were several teams coming over from Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji in order to participate in the Seven League Cup. Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland were also competing, and though it was not their pitches that were affected, the visiting teams had nowhere to practice, and therefore nowhere to stay.
The second page was full of recrimination and thinly veiled accusations - apparently Bagman was still having some difficulty with goblins over a sum of money owed - as well as a rather terse statement from the three countries affected that they would continue to train for the event in the spirit of goodwill, trusting that someone 'more competent' would resolve the situation.
"They've got a point," Harry mused, turning to the sports section to check what the local teams made of the situation. The Chuddley Cannons were offering their facilities - thankfully they weren't one of the teams that Bagman had sold out, or Ron would have been on the warpath.
"Probably on top of their heads," Ron agreed gloomily, and Harry choked on his mouthful of toast. Ron had to haul him up off the bench, still wheezing, in order to get to Charms on time.
Professor Flitwick was standing on his usual pile of books, waiting for them all to enter and seat themselves. The board behind him contained a rather complex looking series of charms, which would have to be performed in quick succession in order to get the right results.
"Today we are going to discuss Sympathetic Magic!" Flitwick said in his usual squeaky voice, "Or... the ability to work magic in close order! True Sympathetic Magic is rare in the Wizarding world, and is often only achieved by truly mated life partners! For further information on the nature of true Sympathetic Magic I recommend a highly informative book written by Frederick Wimplehorn and Alastor Chitwick called 'Sympathetic Magic - a Partnership of the Heart'. Let me just say that a true partnership works by merging the knowledge and magical strength of the partners into a common well of magic that each partner may tap at will."
Hermione's hand was up, and Flitwick gave her an understanding little smile. Miss Granger's hand was always up, and the question could usually be anticipated with a little thought on the part of the teacher.
"Yes Miss Granger, the book is in the library," he nodded and Hermione's hand went down, her cheeks a little pink. Harry grinned - if there was any chance of gaining further knowledge then Hermione was there.
"Now, today we are going to work on casting a variety of charms that require us to work closely together. They will require you to time your actions with your partner most precisely in order to achieve your goal. We will be working with musical instruments - mainly percussion - to produce a syncopated beat, and eventually a melody," Professor Flitwick gestured to the board behind him, and instructed everyone to copy down the charms. He then made them all choose a coloured ball from a hat to pick their partners. Harry was paired with Neville, and Ron was paired with Hermione.
The rhythm that Neville and Harry were given to play wasn't too hard, but the tempo was very quick, which had Neville in a fluster, and pushed Harry's abilities to the limits. After the third failed attempt Harry suggested they slow the tempo down in order to get the order of casting and timing right. He could hear Ron and Hermione in the background, squabbling as they usually did when forced to work closely together. There was just something about their personalities that set them off, sometimes to Harry's amusement, but more often to his discomfort.
By the end of the lesson Harry and Neville had mastered the timing and were almost on tempo. They were one of only four pairs that had managed to get that far - Crabbe's pair for example were still trying to charm the instruments into movement, and Malfoy's pair had suffered some kind of explosion about halfway through the lesson. Hermione and Ron had managed to get their rhythm completed, but were having trouble with the timing.
"That was wicked!" Neville enthused on the way to Transfigurations, "We make a great team Harry!"
"Yeah, Nev," Harry grinned. It was hard not to respond to the other boys' enthusiasm - very rarely did Neville come in at the top of anything except Herbology, where he was tying neck and neck with Hermione, "We work well together."
Ron rolled his eyes but anything he was about to say was lost when Hermione elbowed him in the ribs and pointed at the student notice board in the main foyer. There was a bright poster - a lurid mix of pink and red hearts overlapping each other - announcing the Valentines Ball at Hogsmeade. Sixth and seventh years were allowed to attend this Ball, which was held traditionally on a Friday night.
"Hey," Ron protested, rubbing his ribs resentfully, "Not so hard, Hermione."
"It's the Valentines Ball," Hermione ignored the complaint and Harry moved over to his partner sympathetically. Ron rolled his eyes again. The poster was not only bright, but also written in a very large script.
"Yes, thank you Hermione, I can read," he replied, "What's the big deal?"
"We're allowed to go this year," she told him crossly, "It's supposed to be really good."
Harry frowned and then ushered them all up the stairs. He had a bad feeling about this. He wasn't going to go with a girl to the Ball - that would be disrespectful to Ron - but neither could he take his partner to the Ball. They just weren't ready to announce their status to the entire student body, and Harry had a vague idea that to do so would result in trouble with the teachers anyway. Girls like Lavender Brown and the Patil twins loved this kind of romantic thing, and they were bound to blow the whole Ball out of proportion.
"Hurry up!" Professor McGonagal called from her open doorway and Harry pushed all thoughts of the ball aside.
"So, Harry," despite his friends best attempts, they'd gotten pinned by Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil just by Wrestler on their way inside after tea. Ron stayed close to his partner, offering moral support. The girls were always after Harry, which just showed their good taste as far as Ron was concerned. Too bad they didn't know Harry was already permanently taken.
"Who are you going to take to the Ball next week?" Parvati asked while Lavender giggled and smiled coyly. Ron thought she looked rather daft like that but wasn't stupid enough to tell her that. The last thing he needed was to set those two on their wrong sides. Harry had taken Parvati to the Yuletide Ball in the fourth year, and Ron had squired her twin sister Padma. Neither girl had been too happy with their dates, as neither boy was interested in dancing with them. They'd spent the night sitting together talking to friends. Looking back on the night, Ron thought he should have seen that for the clue it obviously was.
"I'm not planning to take anyone, Parvati," Harry replied, "So if you get an offer I suggest you take it. Don't wait for me or anything."
The girls scowled and flounced into the common room. Ron put a hand on Harry to make him wait for a moment - give them time to get clear, or at least sit down where they wouldn't be able to ambush the partners again.
"I wouldn't take that young flapper either, General," Wrestler spoke up before Ron could, and Harry laughed. Ron grinned at the gargoyle. It was much more entertaining than the Fat Lady had been.
"You don't call them that to their faces do you?" Ron asked in admiration. Wrestler's laugh sounded like a small landslip, and Ron patted its head lightly before giving his name and stepping inside. Hermione was waiting for them with a rather grim look on her face, and she followed them into their room, setting the privacy spell herself while the teens put their bags under the hooks and pulled out their homework for this evening.
"What's up Hermione?" Ron asked as Harry pulled a few books off the shelves and Hermione paced in the small space between the door and the bookcase, "Look, sit down or something - you're making me dizzy."
"I can't believe you turned down Parvati and Lavender!" Hermione burst out, plopping into the other chair and glaring at them; "You can't go around turning down dates to the Ball!"
"Why not?" Ron asked, glancing at Harry. His friend was frowning a little, obviously following Hermione's train of thought. His partner was one of the most intuitive Wizards that Ron had ever encountered, with the exception of a Great-Aunt by marriage who was highly skilled in Divination.
"Because there'll be talk!" Hermione waved her arms in emphasis, and Harry sighed. It was a rather sad and defeated sigh, that Ron didn't like the sound of one bit.
"Unless you want to declare that we're only interested in taking each other to the Ball, we'll be bugged by the girls in our House to take them," he said softly, coming to lean on Ron's chair. Ron reached up and took Harry's hand, feeling his tension, and willingness to claim Ron in front of the whole school if that was what Ron wanted.
"We can't do that, Harry. As much as I'd love to claim you in front of everyone, the school would have to separate us - maybe even suspend one of us. You know we're not allowed to do what we've been doing, even though everyone else does it," Ron let his fingers show Harry how sad he was that it couldn't happen right now, "On our last day here I'll snog you in the middle of the Great Hall, but..."
Harry was chuckling, shaking his head. There was a very soft look in his eyes that warmed Ron clean through, and Hermione's throat clearing startled them both.
"Look, can't you just agree to take a couple of girls?" she pushed, "I mean, you wouldn't have to do anything other than dance with them a few times."
"I can't believe you'd suggest that, Hermione," Ron frowned at her, "It's disrespectful to Harry for me to lie and take some girl I don't fancy, and don't want to spend time with either. Besides, how would you feel if your date danced with you once and then dumped you to sit with his best mate?"
"That's why neither of us asked you to go with one of us," Harry added, "We'll go along as singles, but we're not going to lie to some girl about us dating them. I'm sorry Hermione, but I won't be disloyal to Ron. He's all I've got."
Hermione looked at the grip they had on each other and brushed a few tears from her eyes, before jumping up to hug them both rather violently. Ron's protests were muffled in a portion of Hermione that he preferred not to touch, look at, or think about.
"We'll think of something," Hermione sniffled, letting them go, "And Harry...you've got me too."
She was unsealing the door and bustling out before either of them could reply, and Ron shook his head in exasperation. He aimed his wand at the door and it shut and sealed itself again. He pulled his partner into his lap and Harry sighed, resting his head against Ron's.
"Don't worry mate," Ron patted Harry's hip where his hands were comfortably perched, "I know how you feel."
"It's not fair," Harry mumbled into his hair, "I want to be with you."
"You are," Ron chuckled, "I was serious about snogging you in front of the school on our last day."
"No groping," Harry replied firmly, obviously remembering previous kissing sessions, and Ron laughed, squeezing his partner before letting go.
"Fine, be that way. Now get off, my legs are going to sleep."
Harry knew that Hermione wouldn't be happy to just let the situation lie, but there was a ready solution that he literally stumbled over in the owlry the next morning. He had been reminded by all the fuss that Valentines Day was rapidly approaching, and he'd wanted to get something for Ron. There was an ad in the Daily Prophet that promised to deliver to the Valentine of your choice a block of Honeydukes Best Chocolate, and a red rose by owl, with a message that the sender was supposed to provide.
Harry had never really had any inclination to participate in the hysterics that seemed to accompany each Valentines day - at least this year they wouldn't have singing dwarves tackling people and embarrassing them in the halls - but he knew that he could mortify his partner with a sappy anonymous note and flowers. The idea had been niggling at him all day and he'd climbed up to the owlry with his request - sent under a false name just in case the company decided to attach a name somewhere anyway.
He'd pushed the door to the owlry open and walked in on Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot attached to each other at the lips. Susan's hand was inside the moaning Hannah's open blouse, and they were both too involved to notice Harry straight away. He cleared his throat loudly, his eyes politely averted as they exclaimed, jumped apart and adjusted their clothes rather quickly.
"Sorry, girls," Harry apologised, "I just needed to send an owl."
"Obviously," Susan snapped, waving her hands at the owls on the rafters above them. Harry grimaced while Hannah stared at the floor, her face very red and what looked like the start of tears in her eyes.
"I suppose this is going to be all over the school by breakfast," Susan continued, as Hedwig fluttered to Harry's shoulder. He stroked her white feathers, concentrating on her for a moment before facing the two Hufflepuff girls. Susan was usually so even tempered - getting caught like this would be a major embarrassment to them both, hence the temper.
"No it won't," he said honestly, "You know I wouldn't spread tales, Susan. Don't be like that."
"Sus," Hannah put her hand on the other girl's shoulder, "Harry's not a gossip."
Susan stared at the ground, biting her lip. The solution to his problem with the Valentines Ball hit Harry then and he grinned. He'd be able to reassure them and get himself and Ron out of a spot as well. Lavender and Parvati were still asking, apparently because Hermione had mentioned how shy Harry really was in an effort to explain away his still dateless state.
"Look, you can solve a problem for me, and get some blackmail material of your own in the bargain," Harry told them both and waited until they were looking at him to continue, "You see Ron and I are in the same boat, and with the Valentine Ball coming up we're in a bit of a spot. You know how everyone expects us to pair up for the dance. You two could come to the Ball with us, just as a group of friends, but everyone else would think we were dating. That way we can all go with someone important to us and not get hassled about it."
Susan had started grinning early into his offer and Hannah was clutching her girlfriends' hand rather tightly by the end. Harry felt a moment of relief that neither of them were going to hex him for suggesting it.
"Yes!" Hannah bounced on her toes, "That's perfect Sus! That way we know going in that there won't be any broken hearts or hard feelings!"
"Ok," Susan nodded, "Will Ron play along?"
"Sure he will," Harry stated confidently. The girls went down to their common room in a much better frame of mind, leaving Harry to send one of the school owls on his message, producing a second one for Hedwig to take as a consolation. It was only the weekly letter the Weasley's sent back to their parents, and Harry had included a note at the bottom, answering Mrs Weasley's questions to him.
It wasn't until he got back to his dorm that Harry realised that he had just spoken for Ron without consulting with him first. Harry was fairly sure that his partner wouldn't mind, but a small part of him - the part that was still waiting to be sent back to the Dursley's - said that he was heading for a fight. He had worked himself into a right state by the time Ron came in from supervising prep with the first and second years.
His friend only needed a single glance to tell that there was something bothering him, and Ron came to put his arms around Harry where he was sitting huddled on the end of their bed. Harry leaned into him, explaining what he'd seen in the owlry and the girls' acceptance of his offer.
"Quick thinking," Ron praised him, "We can get them a flower or something each and the four of us can go and have a good time without tipping anyone off."
"I spoke for you," Harry said tentatively, and Ron shook his head. This was obvious to him, therefore it would have to be explained to his partner.
"You spoke for us."
Ron was woken on Valentines Day by a warm mouth in a very intimate place. One thing led to another, and by the time they woke again - and he knew his partner would be sitting a little carefully this morning as the residual ache dispersed - they were almost late. They completed their morning ablutions in a rush, and Hermione gave them a long look when they reached the breakfast table. She didn't get a chance to say anything as a large number of pink owls - the Valentines day ads had been very large - entered the Hall and started landing on the tables in front of their assigned person. Hermione's owl was rather insistent, and also bright green, which had several people craning their necks to see what she had got.
Ron grinned - he had talked to Fred and George about this, and it looked like they'd taken the idea and run with it. The owl had a bouquet of flowers that changed colours and sung 'Happy Valentine to you!' to the birthday song when she reached for them. There was also a box of canary creams for her as well. Hermione's wasn't the only oddly coloured owl, and Harry's congratulations on his idea rippled up his wrist.
Then a pink owl spotted Ron and landed neatly in front of him, staring at him intently until he fumbled the small box and rose out of its harness. There was a note on the box from his 'secret Valentine' and he shot a dirty look at his snickering partner. Lavender and Parvati were already asking him rather shrilly who had sent him such a pretty rose. The two girls had not forgiven them for refusing their invitations to the Ball, and there was a malicious edge to the questions.
/You sod/ he told his now sniggering partner, who shook his head helplessly and took a chocolate when it was offered him. Hermione was glaring at them again, but this time for her bright green Valentine, as the note that came with it proclaimed who had sent it.
They finished breakfast quickly - Ron hit Harry with his rose when his partner asked rather innocently who his Valentine was from - and headed to Care of Magical Creatures. Hagrid made the girls who were wearing flowers in their hair or buttonholes take them off, lest the creatures they were studying attack them for the food, and everyone settled into the pattern of lessons and work.
Flitwick had them demonstrate their close order spell casting to the class, and McGonagal was working on their abilities to magically expand the spaces inside matchboxes. The last class of the day was Divination, and Professor Trelawny had them working further with the Tarot, which Harry found very easy, despite her attempts to make every reading he did indicate that he would die an early death. The Auror that was teaching them Defence Against the Dark Arts had them duelling with each other in groups, making them battle each other and a few Dark Creatures as well.
They escaped from that very draining lesson and went to prepare for their Ball in Hogsmeade. Ron and Harry both needed to shave as they'd skipped that this morning to save time. Hermione had disappeared to work on her toilette as well, and Harry hoped she was going to do something with her hair similar to the way she'd worn it to the Yuletide Ball. The simple French knot had been flattering - much more attractive than the elaborate braids and ringlets that some of the other girls came up with. Hedwig had fetched the flowers - a simple rose with a few green leaves in a small holder that could be pinned to formal robes - at lunch time, so once they'd bathed and changed Harry and Ron walked back out to the common room to wait for Hermione and her date Neville.
Susan and Hannah had both chosen to wear their hair in a simple style, and were pleased with the flowers that their 'dates' presented them with. That was as romantic as things got though, they walked down in a mixed group with Hermione and Neville, and sat together at a table for the supper. All four Heads of House were present, and if Snape cast a bit of a pall over the evening, Professor Flitwick more than cheered things up.
The music started with pudding, and Ron and Harry offered to dance with Susan and Hannah. The first one was a slow one, then something lively that let them dance as a foursome. They retired back to the table after that, and if the girls wandered off for a moment and came back flushed and clingy they paid no attention.
Hermione came and sat down with them as Neville went to fetch a round of drinks after their last dance. She had accepted that Ron and Harry weren't going to explain why it was all right to date the two girls from Hufflepuff, though she had her suspicions. The dance was well under way by now and the fairy ornaments were over their initial shyness, fluttering among the dancers, hoping to be admired.
"Having fun, Hermione?" Harry asked lazily, watching Malfoy trying to steer Millicent Bulstrode through a complicated dance step and almost tripping over the train of her robe. Ron's snickers indicated that he'd seen it too, and Harry sent his partner an amused look.
"Yes thank you Harry, Neville's a wonderful dancer," Hermione smiled up at her escort for the evening and Neville flushed a little as he sat down, passing the bottles of butter beer around the table.
"Gran taught me to dance," he revealed and Harry felt a moment of envy. Neville's family understood and accepted magical abilities, so when he'd been orphaned people who didn't hate him for his magic had raised him. If only the Dursley's... Harry shook his head and Ron's fingers soothed him rather absently.
"What's wrong?" he asked aloud. It wasn't like Ron to be distracted in their finger talk. They usually paid attention to the finger talk and replied absent-mindedly to the verbal cues they were being given. Ron was staring over at the fireplace, a slight frown on his face.
"There's something... you all brought your wands, didn't you?" he asked suddenly, his fingers telegraphing his suspicion that someone had travelled down the chimney. Susan and Hannah looked rather startled, but Neville and Hermione straightened up and looked around alertly. All four Gryffindors had their wands out discreetly and Susan began to draw hers.
"Of course," Hannah replied, "Why?"
She was answered by a voice roaring an all too familiar curse, sending a fireball straight into the chandelier. Hermione and Neville hit it with a freezing charm, and Harry and Ron stood to levitate it until the people on the dance floor could get out from under. Hannah whipped her wand out too, as had the teachers, and everyone ducked as curses started flying in all directions.
"Evacuate the dance hall!" Snape roared over the noise, lifting several curses off the Slytherin students who were collapsed in the corner and gesturing to them curtly. Professor Sprout was at the main door, attempting to unseal it.
"Chameleon counter charm!" Harry yelled to his fellow Gryffindors, and the charm was sent whizzing out into the room. It failed to hit their targets and Ron threw them both to the ground to duck a bloodletting curse.
"We can't reveal what we can't target!" Lee shouted over the noise. The Mayor of Hogsmeade took it upon himself to blow a large hole in the wall to create an exit point as the doors remained sealed. Sprout turned and started ushering the students and villagers near her to the new 'door'.
Ron and Harry dragged themselves back up and winced as Professor McGonagal sent their table flying through the air towards one of the areas that seemed to be generating hexes. The table splintered spectacularly, and they cast their protection spell over the people nearest.
Professor Flitwick had gone to the aid of the village band, which was being attacked by their own instruments, and Snape was exchanging hexes and curses with an invisible opponent. The members of his House were running past their Master, heading for the exit with several of the villagers. With their cover gone - most of the furniture was on fire or running after the dancers - the Gryffindor students were casting their shields all over the room. Harry and Ron's grip was extremely tight, their fingers flexing constantly as they relayed information and suggested courses of action. Without their realising it a red/gold sphere had formed around them, protecting them from the many curses that were headed their way.
One of the instruments that Flitwick was attempting to control exploded, knocking him out and sending him hurtling across the room. The partners Summoned him to their position and then gave the unconscious body to Hermione and Neville to take out through the wall. Ron suggested a course of action to Harry, who wasn't best pleased with the idea, but had to agree it had merit.
"Serpensortia!" Harry pointed his wand at the ground, and from the tip poured a very large boa constrictor. It coiled at their feet and Harry focussed on it, leaving their defence to Ron for a moment.
"Seek, find, bind, go," Harry hissed, feeling Ron's unease at the Parseltongue that dripped from his partners lips. The constrictor looked around the room and then slithered away.
"Potter!" Snape yelled and performed the same spell, sending a python towards them. Harry commanded it to do the same as his boa and then turned his attention to maintaining their shield while Ron defended Hermione and Neville's retreat. Malfoy hesitated near the hole in the wall and then sent a cobra towards Harry before ducking outside to retreat with his Housemates. Harry sent it on its way just as there was a hoarse scream from nearby.
The boa had wrapped itself very firmly around someone, who was struggling wildly, staggering past an unfortunate chain of fairies that had caught fire. His grip told Ron what they needed to do, and they turned as one, ignoring the hexes that continued to bounce off their shield.
"Chameleon reverso!" Ron roared, and a white masked Death Eater appeared, struggling mightily with the boa. Harry grinned in relief that the counter charm worked and aimed his own wand.
"Imobulous corpus," he sent the spell at their enemy, and the man inside the snake froze, not even his eyes moving as the full body bind took control of him. He would be able to breathe as long as he didn't struggle too hard, and Harry shored up their shield once more, while Ron cast a sealing charm on the fireplace. The boa slithered free and turned to survey the room again.
The wall near the door exploded, and Professors Snape and Sprout went down in a wild tangle. When the dust cleared, Snape was left holding the injured Head of Hufflepuff. He gave Ron and Harry a searching look, and the partners gestured for him to get out. The Head of Slytherin was limping badly as he headed for the exit, Sprout cradled in his arms.
"Get out boys!" he ordered, "Leave now!"
"Yes sir!" Ron called, sweeping the area for any further sign of their attackers or their fellow students. Harry confirmed that they and their own Head of House were the last there, and Ron called for her to leave. She nodded, following Snape to the exit, strangely accepting of taking orders from her students. The python grabbed its own prey, and once more the partners revealed and froze their opponent. Professor McGonagal waited by the exit, and seeing that they had two men captured she Summoned them to her, shoving them outside.
"Potter! Weasley! There are Aurors outside to deal with the last few!" she yelled in her most authoritarian tone, and they moved without thought. There was still at least one more person in here with them, but Harry wasn't willing to risk Ron's life to capture them. Malfoy's cobra was still lurking in the heat and smoke - with a bit of luck it would bite the third man.
McGonagal ducked a nasty bloodletting curse and Harry sent a shield her way, leaving Ron to maintain their own. His actions were not quick enough and the wall collapsed under the onslaught of curses, already weakened by the gaping holes in it. She was trapped under the rubble, her hand pinned in place by a heavy piece of masonry, an unstable pile of rubble surrounding her like a cage.
"Professor! Transform!" Ron yelled and Harry scooped up the very battered cat that took her place, tucking it into his badly torn dress robes carefully. Ron moved around so he was standing pressed against Harry's back, one arm around his waist. Their fingers remained tangled together as they fought off the flames and curses heading their way. He was exhausted, and could tell Ron was too from the harsh pants for breath that were flowing over his shoulder.
"We need to open the door, a window, anything!" Harry coughed. Ron leaned into his back heavily for a moment, drawing strength from their contact before turning slightly and blasting at the doors. The heavy oak simply disintegrated and Harry stumbled forward, an unpleasant whine starting in his ears as the shield began to fail. One or the both of them had maintained it constantly for the last ten minutes, and the strain was telling on them heavily.
The partnership had almost made it to the door when a high-pitched scream announced the capture of another assailant. Harry turned and spotted the cobra attached to what could only be someone's arm. Ron groaned softly, but raised his wand, sending the revealing charm into the smoke, followed closely by Harry's body binding curse. They staggered through the door, their shield badly discoloured, finally giving way as they escaped the last of the heat and smoke.
Strong hands steadied Harry, and he looked up into the dark eyes of Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt. Ron was plastered to his back, trembling violently, his weakened fingers telling Harry he wouldn't be able to stand up much longer. Kingsley was staring at Harry, his lips moving as he asked some question.
"There's at least one still in there," Harry hoped this answered the Auror, "I think we got him with the revealer and body bind, if not there's a snake attached to his arm. It was conjured, so you can destroy it."
Kingsley turned his head and Harry grunted, twisting away to catch his fainting partner. The effort was too much and he felt the black creeping around his vision surge over him. His last thought was for the Professor he still carried in his robes - he hoped he didn't land on her.
Ron felt the cool sheets of the hospital wing cradling his very sore and very tired body and sighed as he swum back to consciousness. The events of last night were still vivid in his mind, including the way it felt to be in total synchronisation with his partner. He felt a slight grin tugging at his lips - the connection with Harry had been almost as vital as the one they forged during their lovemaking. He forced heavy eyes open and spotted Ginny sitting beside his bed, a rather worried expression on her face.
"Well at least you're in a good mood," she gestured to his grin and he rolled his eyes slowly, not wanting to do anything to energetic for the next year or so. A thought occurred to him and he raised his eyebrows at Ginny in a questioning manner.
"Everyone's fine," she replied, "You two are the only students in here, and Professors Flitwick, Sprout and Snape are already back in their own rooms. Professor McGonagal is in one of the private rooms - but Madam Pomfrey says she'll be good as new by Monday. Harry's in the bed behind me - he's still asleep. It's Saturday morning - just after breakfast. Hermione said she'll come and visit you soon - she had to go to the library."
Ron stretched his eyesight a little and sighed in relief when he saw his sleeping partner's peaceful face. Ron had learned that if Harry was in pain when he went to sleep there was always a slight frown worn upon his brow. Madam Pomfrey bustled over and took his pulse, before waving her wand over him and then giving him a pepper up potion. Ron sat up with the steam coming out of his ears and attacked the breakfast tray Ginny had fetched for him with enthusiasm.
"Did the Daily Prophet get hold of this one?" he asked through a mouthful of kippers and Ginny grimaced but nodded. He took the hint and swallowed before asking what the paper had said and how accurate they were.
"Well, they were pretty accurate," Ginny sighed, "I mean, they got most things right, although the Mayor of Hogsmeade is taking credit for catching two of the Death Eaters single handed and without a wand. There's also a mention of the attack that was made last term - although they were completely wrong about most of it. The third page had this big story about Hogwarts being under attack and Fudge is calling for Aurors to be put in here to patrol the halls and monitor the teachers and students closely."
"He's probably still worried that Professor Dumbledore is trying to raise an army against him."
The comment was very soft, but Ron felt a lot better for hearing it. Harry's eyes were open and he was looking up at the ceiling, though Ron knew he probably couldn't see it without his glasses. Ginny moved over to Harry's beside cabinet and picked up his glasses, unfolding them and leaning over gingerly to put them on his face. Ron stifled a laugh at the surprised expression on Harry's face and chose to respond to his partners' comments.
"At least he didn't suggest Dementors," he commiserated, "And it won't be so bad if we have a few Aurors around the castle - then maybe we'll be able to get some work done instead of spending all our time here."
"Don't count on it," Hermione said darkly from the doorway. She went and kissed Harry on the cheek and then stepped back for Madam Pomfrey. She walked around to give Ron a hug, which he received rather uncomfortably. He'd never been fond of public displays of affection, no matter who was giving them out. He was grateful that Harry felt the same way - though if his partner had wanted to be openly affectionate, Ron would have tried.
"What makes you say that?" Ron asked as Hermione sat on the end of his bed. She sighed, shaking her head at him, and he felt the familiar rush of frustration that she always seemed to invoke in him.
"Because Fudge will choose the Aurors he thinks will spy for him. It will be like having Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad back - only this time it will be fully trained adults," she told him tersely. Harry was sitting up by now with steam pouring out of his ears, and Dobby had appeared with his breakfast tray. Ron waited until Harry had finished reassuring the house elf and had fended off enquiries as to his own health before responding to Hermione.
"Aurors are independent of the Minister for Magic," he told her firmly, "Their charter was set up to be that way so no one with a fancy for power could get into office and turn us into a dictatorship. Any Auror caught spying for the Minister would be sacked, and Fudge would lose his office."
"We'd have to catch them first," Ginny pointed out and Harry put down the piece of toast he'd been nibbling on.
"No we won't, because it won't happen," he told them all, "Professor Dumbledore won't allow the Ministry to interfere like that again - last year was a nightmare for everyone and he won't put us through that again."
Ron smiled, his fears relieved. Harry had a lot of faith in the Headmaster, despite all he'd been through over the years, and he was very rarely wrong about the important things. The doors opened again and Hannah and Susan entered, nodding when Madam Pomfrey warned them they could only stay a few minutes.
"Are you two ok?" Hannah asked, leaning at the bottom of Harry's bed. Harry told them they were fine, and Ron smiled when they looked to him for corroboration.
"Well, you've got the perfect excuse to dump us after last night - look what happens when we take you out," he said cheerfully and Susan laughed at him.
"It was a smashing time - well, right up until the actual smashing," she agreed and Hannah giggled. Harry grinned over at Ron.
"You can't say you're dull when I take you out," the black haired boy winked solemnly at his partner, "We get to see all the hottest things."
"Yeah, but usually that doesn't refer to balls of fire heading right for me," Ron mock complained, glad that they were still alive and unhurt. Before the banter could get any further, Professor Flitwick entered. He had a bandage perched jauntily across his forehead, but his energetic, springing walk was as bouncy as ever. Professor Dumbledore was a few steps behind him, and everyone straightened up politely, with Harry and Ron pushing their breakfast trays away.
"You haven't finished Harry," Hermione said sharply, and Ron glanced over. His partner had managed half a slice of toast, not touching the eggs or chipolatas that Dobby had cooked for him, and also leaving the pumpkin juice and cup of tea. Ron and Hermione were still vigilant over Harry's meals - the dark haired boy was still too thin.
"Mr Potter can finish his breakfast while we speak to him and Mr Weasley," Professor Dumbledore said firmly, "I'm afraid I must beg all of your pardon and ask that you allow us to speak privately. Madam Pomfrey has assured me that the boys will be released after dinner."
The girls said their goodbyes and left, Hermione casting a vaguely longing look over her shoulder. Ron had the feeling that she knew what they were about to discuss and wished to stay.
Harry had clung to the sound of Ron's voice at first, relieved that his partner was alive and apparently unhurt. Then what Ginny and her brother were discussing sunk in and Harry had added his voice to their conversation. Hermione and their erstwhile dates had been a welcome distraction from his lack of appetite, until Professors Dumbledore and Flitwick appeared.
He didn't want to eat - sure that Dumbledore was about to split him and Ron up, sending one of them to stay in Ravenclaw for the rest of their schooling. He knew that the teachers hadn't missed the way he and Ron had connected last night, and didn't really expect that his Headmaster would bend the rules for the Boy-Who-Lived. All he really wanted was to cuddle up somewhere warm and peaceful with Ron, locking them away from the outside world for a while.
"Now boys," Flitwick took Ginny's empty chair while Dumbledore sat on Harry's bed, "We need to speak to you about something important."
"You're splitting us up," Harry's voice was panicked and Dumbledore immediately put a hand on the blanket covered lump that was his foot. The touch was meant to be comforting, but it was all Harry could do not to kick the hand away gently. There was only one person he wanted touching him right now, and Dumbledore wasn't him.
"Not at all, dear boy," Dumbledore soothed, "Just relax. You need to eat more of that delicious breakfast that Dobby has prepared for you."
Harry bit his lip and obediently took a forkful of eggs, chewing and swallowing mechanically. He could see Ron had stiffened in his own bed and was shooting anxious little glances his way.
"Last night, I witnessed an almost perfect example of Sympathetic Magic, as performed by true life partners," Flitwick said after a moment, "The two of you were magnificent in your ability to protect and counter-act the harmful spells being cast by our assailants."
"You mean like the stuff we've been doing in Charms - close order magic?" Ron asked, shifting so he was curled slightly on his side. Harry smiled at him, then glanced down at his plate, surprised to see it half empty. Dumbledore squeezed his foot in approval, and Harry offered the Headmaster a rather weak smile. He was a little uncomfortable with the Headmaster after last year, and it saddened him. The long concealed prophecy was a sore point with Harry, though he understood the reasons for the concealment now. In addition, Dumbledore had always meant a lot to Harry - still did - but the humiliation he felt about having to be rescued from his relatives last summer made it hard to look his Headmaster in the eye.
"Not quite, Mr Weasley," Flitwick replied, drawing Harry's attention once more, "Sympathetic magic does require the participants to work very closely together, however there is more to it than that. They pool their magical strength, ability, knowledge and talent together, drawing on it equally or in turns. In addition, they are able to communicate without speaking to one another. One is often gifted in an area of Divination - predicting the future with some degree of accuracy, and the other is a more grounded individual, able to see through the forces motivating the people around them. Also, both are able to perform magic without the use of wands or spoken incantations."
"Have either of you noticed any of these abilities?" Dumbledore asked quietly, and Harry stared down at his nearly empty plate, pushing it away and glancing at Ron. The glance was permission, and Ron sighed, speaking for them both.
"Harry is gifted in the Tarot, and we can talk to each other if our fingers are touching. And last night..."
"We were in perfect synch with each other," Harry finished when Ron didn't. Flitwick smiled at them both, delighted that they weren't trying to deny it or hide from the implications. He glanced over at Dumbledore, who seemed to straighten and take over.
"There are other facets of this partnership that have often emerged," he looked them both in the eye, one after the other, and Harry understood what he was building up to. Not wanting to be asked by his Headmaster if he was shagging Ron - not that Dumbledore would use those words - Harry decided to come clean himself. It was important to him that Dumbledore and Flitwick understand that there was more than sex to their relationship.
"Just after we arrived at Hogwarts this summer, Ron and I began... a relationship," he interrupted the Headmaster, "It's one that we'll continue for the rest of our lives."
"He's stuck with me," Ron backed Harry up, using the words that had become almost a vow of marriage to them both. Dumbledore looked delighted and Flitwick clapped his hands in glee.
"Oh excellent!" he exclaimed, "This proves that you are truly compatible! While there are many partnerships that form close ties - such as the one you both have with Miss Granger - not all develop into a true-life partnership. I must congratulate you both!"
Harry smiled at the excited Professor, shooting Ron a look, relieved his partner wasn't angry that he'd revealed their secret. Dumbledore was congratulating them too, and getting up.
"Professor Flitwick has agreed to give you both the additional training that you will need if you are to avoid exhausting yourselves whilst using your gift," he told them, "I am sure you both wish to avoid further visits to our lovely hospital wing. I will of course be informing your parents, Mr Weasley."
Harry thanked the Charms Professor, and Madam Pomfrey bustled over with a tray of potions and poultices. Professor Flitwick drew her aside for a moment to speak softly to her - and when her eyes widened Harry guessed that he was telling her about their new status. His suspicions were confirmed when she told Harry to get into bed with Ron, and drew the curtained screens she used for privacy around them as they settled with soft sighs of relief in each others arms.
"You'll recuperate much more quickly if you're together," she said kindly, "Congratulations boys. I'm very happy for you both."
Harry smiled at her but did not reply. Ron's hand was stroking the small of his back already and he was headed rapidly for sleep.
Madam Pomfrey released them after dinner - though she'd had to wake them both first - and they returned to the Gryffindor common room. Hermione had ushered them both off to their room and made them lie down. They'd told her what Flitwick had told them - and Ron had included the observation that Flitwick had made about their close ties to Hermione to cheer her up - and then she'd left to let them rest. They'd sealed their door, taken off their shoes and robes, and lay down in their uniform, drawing the curtain and shutting out the rest of the world. Harry's glasses were banished to the dresser and there was a feeling of tender intimacy in the way the dark shrouded them.
Ron was pleased about that as he still felt a little tired, hence the cuddling with Harry. He was on his back, his partner lying partially on top of him, letting him rub the small of Harry's back and feeling the tension seep slowly out of his friends body. Ron loved doing this for Harry, in fact he did it every night, even if they weren't having sex.
Something that Flitwick said in the hospital wing was worrying Ron, and he felt he had to raise it now, before they started training. As much as he hated sitting around discussing how he felt, Ron had to know what it was about him that Harry loved - or if they were just together because they were magically compatible. Ron was fairly sure that it wasn't the case, but never-the-less needed to know, once and for all, why Harry loved him. The only problem was that he was fairly sure that just asking Harry the question would upset his partner.
"Harry?" Ron asked softly, in case Harry had gone to sleep. With the curtains closed, the bed was rather dim, and Harry had his face buried in Ron's neck, breathing warmly into his skin.
"Yeah," Harry's response was low and his voice a little rough. Ron bit his lip, then blurted out the question.
"Why do you love me?"
Harry stiffened and pulled away, rolling over and then sitting up, scooting back until his back was resting against the wall their bed was pushed against. Ron was regretting this already, but he'd started now and needed to finish it.
"What?" Harry's voice was bewildered, and a little hurt.
"Do you love me because our magic is compatible?" Ron said it steadily, trying to explain what he was thinking, "Why do you love me?"
"Bloody hell, Ron!" Harry swore in the darkness, and there was anger and a little fear in his voice, "We didn't know we were compatible before we got together! How can you say that? Do you think I'm just using you for sex?"
"No!" Ron reached out instinctively but Harry avoided his grasp. Ron sighed, letting his partner have his way for now, "I don't think you're using me!"
There was a long moment of silence and Ron bit his lip. He should have kept his mouth shut. When Harry spoke again it took a moment for Ron to understand what he was saying.
"I love you because you see me. Not the Boy Who Lived, or Riddle's Enemy, or Dumbledore's Golden Boy, or the Weirdo at Privet Drive, or the Dursley's Freak Nephew. You see Harry - you always did. I love you because you accept me as I am, warts and all. You don't try to make me be someone I'm not, or hold me up as an example or anything else. I love you because when the world goes to shite you're at my side, and I know that when I have to go on alone you'll wait for me to come back. I love you because you can make me laugh, and being with you is fun. You're patient with me when I'm being stupid or unfair, and you're my best friend. I love you because you're you, and that makes you the most important thing in my world."
Harry's voice was pained and choked as he stumbled through his words. Ron's heart was soaring though, because Harry had reassured him so well. He reached out again and came in contact with Harry's sock clad foot. He stroked it softly, and took a deep breath.
"I love you because you see people. You don't care who we are or where we come from - each person you meet is treated as an individual, without prejudice, until they've proven they should be treated otherwise. I love you because you're passionate. Even after all the things you've been through you put your heart and soul into everything you do. I love you because you're dead sexy and I'll be pinching myself for the rest of my life because I'm so lucky to have you in my life. I love your dignity and courage, the way you smile at me, the way you fly in Quidditch. I love your grace and creativity, and the way you put everyone else first. I love the weirdo, and the boy who lived, and everyone else you have to be. I love the way you make me feel, and the way you see right through me to what's really important."
Harry launched himself on top of Ron, who clutched him close, holding on through the tears and soft sobs. He wished he'd told Harry this sooner, and saved them the pain now. Harry's sense of self worth was still shaky, and Ron had a niggling suspicion that he'd be dealing with this issue for the rest of his life. He was more than up to the task.
"You're loveable, Harry," he whispered into the dark hair, "I know that no one has told you that for a very long time, but you are."
"Don't doubt me," Harry sobbed, "I don't love you because Flitwick says I should."
"Shh, I'm sorry mate," Ron soothed, "I should have kept my mouth shut. Come on, Harry, you know you're stuck with me. I won't leave you. I'll always love you. You and me are forever."
"Forever," Harry hiccupped, and Ron kissed the nearest bit he could reach, which happened to be an ear.
"Yeah," he confirmed, "Forever. I should have waited until we felt a bit better to ask you. I'm sorry."
"No, Harry lifted up enough to look fuzzily at his partner, "No - you don't ever wait to ask me about that. I'd rather know what you were feeling right away than have to find out..."
"Shhh," Ron leaned up and kissed trembling lips, "We'll sort it out, ok? Come on, lie down again. We're too tired now. Things will be better after a sleep."
Harry nodded and lay down again, curling close. Ron clutched him tightly, letting his own exhaustion roll over him. He felt Harry's presence withdraw a little as his breathing evened out and knew that Harry had 'stepped out', protecting himself and Ron with the Occlumency that he practiced whenever he was asleep. Ron buried his face in the unruly hair of his partner and followed him.
They were summoned to Professor Flitwick's study after dinner that Sunday, to discuss the timing and content of their training. Both teens were eager to begin this rather exciting stage of their lives. Mrs Weasley had sent them a very guarded note - congratulating them both on their 'wonderful news' and leaving it at that, lest the message be intercepted and give away their secret to their enemies.
"For the rest of this term," Professor Flitwick informed them as they sat on his rather spindle legged furniture, "You will come to me every Monday evening and Sunday morning for your training. Next term you will study with Professor Snape at the same time, for there are several Potions that include the use of Sympathetic Magic, and are obviously not taught to all the students. Next school year you will study for a term with Professor McGonagal, who will teach you more complex forms of transfiguration. I understand that you are both Animagus?"
"Yes, Professor," Harry's mind was spinning, and Ron's fingers were grounding him. They'd spent the morning in bed together, giving each other pleasure and comfort, and felt a lot more energetic as a result. Harry was kind of relieved that they'd hashed things out the night before, as it had obviously been worrying Ron.
"Once you have studied with Professor McGonagal, Professor Dumbledore will undertake to train you in defensive spells, and then we will be finished. Partners of Sympathetic Magic can only be given very preliminary training, as it is they who decide ultimately how they will work together," Flitwick continued, "Now, we will begin tomorrow after the last lesson. You are to bring your wands and parchment and quills. I will also give you a list of books on the subject that I most strongly recommend you purchase. Are there any questions?"
"If you give us the list now we'll send Hedwig to Flourish and Blotts with it," Harry answered the Professor. Flitwick beamed at him happily, and produced the list from inside his robes. Ron took it and they got up.
Professor McGonagal was waiting outside the door for them. She looked very grave, and a little upset. They were both glad to see her up and about, as they had been worried about how badly she'd been injured. Madam Pomfrey would only say that she was 'coming along nicely' - a not very encouraging report.
"Are you all right Professor?" Harry asked a little anxiously. She gave them a solemn smile and nodded.
"I am, Mr Potter, thanks to you and your partner," she glanced at Flitwick, who shut his door with a final goodbye. Their Head of House indicated that they should come with her, and Harry and Ron followed her down the corridor.
"I had hoped, Mr Potter, that this matter would be put off until you had more time to come to terms with your loss," McGonagal said very gently, "Unfortunately the firm handling the estate of your godfather, and that of your parents as well, feel it necessary to speak to you at once. I can no longer stall them, and Professor Dumbledore has graciously allowed us to use the Headmasters office to meet with your solicitor. You needn't worry - both the Headmaster and myself will be with you, as will Mr Weasley. May I congratulate you both?"
"Thanks, Professor," Harry mumbled, rather stunned. He had a solicitor? And an estate? He hadn't really thought about what would happen to Sirius' belongings once he'd died. There had been no funeral or memorial for his godfather - who was still considered a criminal by the vast majority of the Wizarding world. Ron reached out and took Harry's hand - not to speak to him, but just in comfort.
"You'll be ok, mate," his partner promised, "Professor McGonagal would never steer us wrong, and Professor Dumbledore has always tried to do the right thing for you."
The irony of that statement had not escaped Harry. Dumbledore's decisions for Harry's welfare had always been made with the best of intentions - unfortunately, they had rarely worked the way his mentor had wished. The Dursley's had turned into Harry's nightmare, and sheltering Harry from the prophecy which had led to his parents murder hadn't been a real success either.
"Fizzing whizzbies," McGonagal told the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the Headmasters stairs, and it hopped aside. Harry stepped onto the moving stairs with a deep breath, Ron at his side. They rode up in silence and waited politely for Professor McGonagal to join them, allowing her to enter first.
The solicitor was a ruddy-cheeked Witch in splendidly embroidered robes. Her hair was cast in elaborate ringlets that cascaded from the top of her head, and she had a leather satchel stamped with elaborate gold lettering. Professor Dumbledore had seated her in an armchair, with a small table at her elbow, already stacked high with papers. The Headmaster was seated in an armchair to her left, and Professor McGonagal took the one to her right, leaving the small lounge opposite the solicitor for Harry and Ron.
"Ah, Harry," Dumbledore smiled as they got settled, hands brushing, "This is Madam Legales, of the solicitors firm, Legales, Hedwitch and Pratt. She has been handling your parent's estate, and is also responsible for your godfathers will. She has some business to discuss with you."
"And with all due respect, Headmaster, my business is confidential. Your student is quite safe with me," Madam Legales voice was rich and fruity, with rather posh accents. Harry smiled at Ron's stifled growl, squeezing warm fingers in agreement.
"Madam Legales, I don't need protection from you," Harry spoke up clearly, making sure she saw his anger at being labelled a coward, "The Headmaster and my Head of House are the closest thing I have to parents at the school. I would be foolish to refuse their counsel in any legal matters placed before me. And before you also insult my partner, Ron Weasley is my sole beneficiary. Anything you have to say to me will be reported to these three people anyway. Shall we proceed?"
Legales went slightly pink, and Professor McGonagal aimed a small smile at her student while Ron's fingers told Harry exactly how he felt and what he planned to do about it when they were alone that night. Professor Dumbledore merely folded his hands and waited for the solicitor to come to the point.
"Very well, Mr Potter," Legales cleared her throat, "Now, as to Mr Black's estate..."
Harry listened closely. The Black family had been rather wealthy Purebloods, and Sirius had left his entire estate to Harry upon his death. That meant the house at Grimmauld Place was his, and the contents of the Black family vault located at Gringott's as well. Harry would rather have his godfather alive and well, and Ron's response to this fervent wish was to let go of his hand and put an arm around his shoulders, squeezing gently. His partner's ears were slightly red, and Harry loved him all the more for his willingness to put aside his discomfort and support Harry publicly.
"Thank you," Harry nodded when Legales asked if he understood, "I'd like it placed in your records that the house at Grimmauld Place and any other property I hold is to be given to Ronald Weasley in the event of my death. Failing that it is to go to the Headmaster of Hogwarts, to be held in trust for the school in perpetuity, and used as the Headmaster sees fit."
"Harry!" Ron protested, "Are you sure?"
"I am," Harry nodded, looking at his partner with a small smile and covering the fingers gripping his shoulder, "What's mine is yours."
"Oh, good," Ron smiled weakly, "Because I need to borrow your copy of Basic Spells."
Harry laughed, the tension evaporating for him. Ron always knew how to do that, it was one of his most endearing traits, though it drove Hermione crazy. Professor Dumbledore stifled a small cough in his beard, and Harry thought the Headmaster had been laughing too.
"Does this include your parents property?" Legales asked pointedly, and Harry turned to her with a frown. He'd never thought about what had happened to the house his parents had once lived in. If he considered it at all he had assumed what was left of the house had been sold, and the money deposited at Gringotts.
"I don't know anything about my parents property," he told her bluntly, "I have access to their vault at Gringotts, but that's all I know about."
"Your parents bought a small farm - little more than a series of pastures - at Godrics Hollow, just on the edges of the village. We have been renting the property - called Potter's Field - out as grazing rights to some of the local farmers. That income has paid our fees and the rest has gone into the vault in trust for you. Professor Dumbledore approved these actions - he has not spoken to you about it?" there was a sly edge to her voice and Harry bristled to the Headmasters defence.
"There was never a moment that was appropriate for such a discussion. I was hardly fit to conduct my affairs at eleven, and as you may be aware the past two terms have been rather strenuous as my housemates and I have had to fight off no less than two attacks by Death Eaters," Harry made his voice as disapproving and quelling as he possibly could, and was pleased to see her flush again in embarrassment. The voice also had an effect on Ron, but it was one that was best explored in the privacy of their rooms.
"Forgive me, Mr Potter, that was uncalled for," she murmured, "I will include Potter's Field in your instructions. The pastoral lease on the land where your parents house stood will be up for renewal shortly, what are your wishes?"
"Let it lapse, though the rest can be renewed when they next come up," Harry told her, an idea forming, "Will it be vacated by the summer holidays?"
"Oh yes, the lease ends next month," she nodded and made another note, "I'll draw up your will, then, sir, and owl it to you by Tuesday. The owl will wait until you have signed and witnessed the document and then return the document to my office. Copies will be returned to you, along with the documents relating to both properties. Is that satisfactory?"
"Yes, thank you," Harry nodded, "Is there anything else?"
"No, that concludes our business for today, sir," Legales started packing up her papers, "If I may use the Floo to return to my office, Headmaster?"
"Of course," Dumbledore nodded and McGonagal stood up, gesturing for the teens to precede her. Harry bade a regal farewell to Legales, and thanked the Headmaster for his time before letting Ron lead him out. They were halfway down the stairs before Professor McGonagal lost her battle with decorum and giggled. The teens joined her laughter - Legales had been a rather pompous busybody until Harry had pulled his little act.
"If you ever use that tone with me, young Potter," McGonagal gasped, and Harry nearly fell over, he was laughing so hard at the idea of treating his intimidating Head of House that way.
"I have too much respect for you Professor," he promised, and her giggles stopped. She got a rather funny look in her eyes and patted his shoulder in a very fond gesture.
"Thank you, Harry. You'd best get along to the Great Hall - it will soon be teatime," she shooed them off, and Harry steered his still giggling partner off down the corridor.
"What bothers me is they haven't managed to make the Death Eaters we caught talk," Ron buckled his shin guards in place and then reached over to adjust the neck of Harry's Quidditch robes. The rest of the team were used to seeing these two fiddle with each other's gear absently now, and it didn't even rate a raised eyebrow. Harry grinned his thanks, enjoying the touch innocently.
"Shacklebolt and Tonks will wear them down," Harry knew he sounded confident, "I did a spread with that school deck I borrowed from Trelawny. She was so pleased I was interested in her 'art' that she let me have one for the rest of the term."
"You need to get your own, mate," Ron frowned, and let Harry adjust his wrist guards, "Flitwick said..."
"I'm sorry to interrupt you two, but would it be too much to ask that you pay attention to the match we're about to play?" Angelina Johnson broke in, using the sweet reasonable voice that meant you were about to be hexed six ways to Sunday. The partners broke off their conversation, and turned their attention to the rest of their team mates.
"Now that our Keeper and Seeker are ready," Angelina smiled sarcastically at them, "You all know that this is one of the most important games of the season. We play Slytherin and there is a lot riding on the match. We need to beat them by two hundred points to knock them out of the running entirely, but they'll be especially vicious after the thrashing that Ravenclaw gave them last time."
"It was beautiful," Ginny sighed, "Malfoy missed the snitch at least three times!"
Ron and Harry grinned at each other. They'd spent some time this last week reminding Malfoy of just that fact every time they met him in a hallway. Neither partner was silly enough to try it in a lesson - they didn't want to risk being banned from this match. Even Angelina was smiling in fond reminiscence.
"Yes, and he'll be out to prove himself this match. They need to win, and win well to recover from that last match. We're lucky enough to have good weather for ours," Angelina gestured out the window at the sky, which was blue with a few white high clouds, "So you'll have to watch yourselves. Slytherin likes to play dirty, and Harry, whatever you do, don't catch the snitch until we're fifty points up."
"Got it," Harry nodded, "Fifty points."
"Everyone ready? Lets go!" Angelina snatched up her broom and led the way out of the changing rooms to the players box. They got into position quietly, and Ron cleared his throat once. Harry reflected that he'd been having a brilliant run lately, and even the Slytherins had been forced to retire their version of 'Weasley is our King'. That had been sung at the first match of the season, and Harry had shot him a look that made the song fade from Ron's memory. He'd saved three goals in very quick succession before his partner had caught the snitch. They'd celebrated very enthusiastically that night with the team, and Harry had given his tired partner a sweet kiss before they'd slept. Ron had told him that was reward enough.
Madam Hooch strode out onto the pitch and reminded everyone that she expected fair play from all of them. The captains shook hands, everyone mounted, and Harry kicked his Firebolt off, moving to hover in the traditional Seekers position, above the Chasers and Beaters. Colin Creevey had taken the role of Beater this year, taking Kirke's place. Sloper had retained his spot as Beater, and seemed to have improved over the summer and after a lot of intense training with the team - he now hit the bludger where he was aiming it most of the time, and very rarely hit his team-mates. Angelina and Ginny were Chasers along with a fourth year called Alex Marshfall.
The snitch was released with the bludgers, and the whistle blew as the quaffle was thrown straight up. Gryffindor emerged with it from the scrum and Harry zigzagged above them down the length of the pitch, diving at one of Slytherins Beaters - he could never tell them apart - to spoil his aim at Ginny. Malfoy was zooming around the pitch feverishly, presumably looking for the snitch, and Harry soared back up to his position at the edge of the pitch, halfway between each goal. He preferred to watch for the snitch from a stationary position, it let him assist his team-mates with a distraction or a feint when needed.
Slytherin were playing very dirty, and Gryffindor received two penalties in the first ten minutes, which they converted to goals. That put the score at thirty nothing, and the Slytherins seemed to realise that they were defeating themselves. Though the team was mounted on the Nimbus Two Thousand and One model racing broom, they were finding it very hard to outclass the Gryffindors, who only had Harry's Firebolt to boast of. Gryffindor had discovered early that the best broom in the world wouldn't improve your ability to play Quidditch if you were talent less.
Ginny had the quaffle and was streaking for the goal when a bludger hit her brooms tail and sent her into a spin. The quaffle went flying as she tried to control her broom, and was grabbed by a Slytherin Chaser. Harry zoomed down the pitch, running interference until Angelina and Colin could get there. A very cleverly aimed bludger sent the quaffle flying and Angelina grabbed it, heading back up the pitch, joined by Alex. Ginny had regained control of her broom, though Harry thought it was having some difficulty flying in a straight line.
He ducked a bludger and glanced around to make sure that Malfoy was still seeking the snitch. Gryffindor increased their lead to forty and Harry decided it was time for a little distraction. He spun his broom towards his own goals and sped up, the ground and stands going by at a blur. His partner ducked out of Harry's way as a whistle of air told him that Malfoy had joined him in the hunt, thinking that Harry had spotted the snitch.
Harry heard Ron laugh as they went zooming past and Harry looped around the goals in a complicated pattern before returning to his usual place halfway down the pitch.
"What's wrong, Malfoy? Lost the snitch again?" he called over his shoulder, and gripped his broom as Malfoy barged past him, trying to knock him off as he went back to his search pattern, weaving in and out of the other players. Harry chuckled to himself and watched Ron make a brilliant save despite both bludgers aiming for him. He breathed easier when Colin and Sloper took charge of them, sending them towards the Slytherin captain.
There was a chill in the air as winter had yet give way to the spring storms, and Harry shivered a little in his robes, deciding to warm up with a quick sprint around the pitch. He scattered the Slytherin Beaters on his way past and dodged and dived around the Slytherin goal before returning to his place with Malfoy a rather dishevelled second. Before either teen could come up with a taunt there was a roar from the Gryffindor supporters, and Harry grinned, turning to keep an eye out for the snitch once more, looking in real earnest this time. He had to catch it before Malfoy did, thus knocking the Slytherins out of the running.
A flash of gold had Malfoy winging after it, with Harry in hot pursuit. The snitch led them a merry dance around both goalposts, as the Seekers rammed each other and ducked bludgers in an effort to get there first. Players scattered in front of them as they blasted through a heated dispute for possession of the quaffle. The Nimbus was no match for the Firebolt over long distances, and Harry had started to pull ahead when Malfoy grunted and heaved his broom handle over the top of Harry's, sending them both off course and into a steep dive. This was a foul called blurting, which would result in a penalty for Gryffindor if Madam Hooch had time to notice.
"Bugger off!" Harry roared, to the blonde's obvious amusement. Harry grit his teeth, seeing the wall of the stands looming very close. It was obviously Malfoy's intention to smear him on the wall like jam on toast. He took a deep breath and threw his weight sharply to the right, rolling his broom free of Malfoy's in an unexpected move. Harry maintained the roll, taking his broom underneath the other teens Nimbus, seeing the snitch shoot underneath them both in the opposite direction. Harry righted himself, free of Malfoy, who was overshooting his target in an effort to stop, and jammed his feet onto the twigs at the end of his broom, hauling up on the handle until the broom was vertical, twisting his weight so he spun one hundred and eighty degrees on the spot.
Now the snitch was in front of him, and Harry slammed his broom back into the horizontal position, leaning forward and kicking it into maximum speed. The snitch fluttered along in front of him and Harry leaned forward even more, snatching it out of the air and hauling back on his broom, soaring up into the rare, clear, winter sky - roars echoing in his ears.
"Harry!" Hermione screamed in his ear, "That was bloody brilliant!"
Harry winced away from the volume, though to be fair she had to scream to be heard over the top of the rest of the house. The common room was heaving with excited students, and the rest of the team had already been mobbed. Dennis Creevey was already showing pictures from his brother's camera. Colin had discovered a way to make Muggle Polaroid's move, and his younger brother never went to a game without it.
"Ease off Hermione!" Ron grinned at their friend, "He's only got one set of ears and they're mine!"
The remark went unheard by the rest of the Gryffindors in all the fuss and bother, and Hermione moved back a little, a slightly hurt expression on her face. Harry laughed and reached out to her, giving her a hug.
"Ignore him Hermione!" he laughed, "He's just being a prat!"
Hermione gave him a slightly wobbly smile and Ron hugged her too, making her squeak. Then the rest of the Gryffindors spotted Harry and Ron in the doorway and mobbed them. They lost track of Hermione in the middle of it all, and Harry forgot about the sad look in Hermione's eyes for a couple of hours.
Lee Jordan disappeared for a while, and came back with butter beer, fire whiskey and a large basket from Honeydukes. Harry guessed the twins must have told him about the passage out of Hogwarts and laughed. Ron warned the seventh year to keep the fire whiskey away from the under aged Wizards and ate a couple of chocolate frogs.
Neville snagged Harry for a detailed discussion of the match, and Harry settled down with a large group of students in the corner, sipping butter beer and taking the match apart, discussing tactics and counter moves that the Slytherin could have used. Once they'd exhausted that topic they moved on to racing brooms - which was the best, and why. Harry became so immersed in the discussion that when Ron found him two hours later it had become dark outside.
"Hey! Have you seen Hermione?" Ron yelled, "There's an owl here for her!"
"No!" Harry roared back over the noise and got up to help him look. She didn't appear to be in the common room, and Ginny said she wasn't in her room either. The carved arms around the archway were not something either teen wanted to wrestle with, so they couldn't go look for themselves.
"Have you tried our room?" Harry leaned in close to speak to Ron without screaming at the top of his lungs. His partner shook his head and they made their way through the throng, exchanging smiles and greetings with everyone as they waded through them.
Hermione was indeed in their room, wedged into a corner behind one of their ratty armchairs. Ginny took one look, rolled her eyes and left again, muttering something about coffee and headache potions. Hermione was clutching a bottle of butter beer, but from the smell of it she'd filled it with fire whiskey. Harry had taken a sip from Ron's glass and grimaced - the taste too strong for him to enjoy, though he understood that some Wizards liked to cut it with a non-alcoholic drink.
"Hermione?" Ron asked as Harry sealed the door. He had a bad feeling about this. Hermione was clearly not in a happy place and he knew she'd be mortified the next morning if anyone else saw this. She'd probably be mortified that her friends had seen it anyway.
"That's my name," Hermione slurred, "Hey it's Ronny! Helloooooo Ronny!"
She giggled and Harry sighed, biting down on a smile at the look on Ron's face. He helped Ron pull the chair out so that they could both get in behind it and then squeezed in to sit on one side of Hermione. First things first - the removal of her drink.
"Hello Hermione," Harry smiled as sincerely as he could, "Can I have a sip?"
"Harry!" Hermione threw her arms around his neck, banging his head with the bottle and squeezing him tightly, "Harry that was bloody brilliant! Bloody bloody brilliant!"
"Thanks Hermione," Harry winced and pulled the bottle from her hand. He stuck it behind the bookcase where it wouldn't be knocked over and then submitted to her very vigorous hugs. She even kissed him on the cheek, still muttering 'bloody brilliant' at irregular intervals. Ron chuckled and she turned her head to look at him.
"Ronny! You were bloody brilliant too," she stuttered, "You were, you were, you w-w-were!"
"You're brilliant too, Hermione," Ron said gamely, and she shook her head, her mood swinging from happy to sad the way only the truly drunk could manage. Her eyes filled with tears and Harry reared back in alarm.
"No I'm not! Y-you don't l-love me any m-more," she sobbed, "You love each oth-ther and y-you're l-l-leaving m-me b-b-b-bb-behhhhhinnnnnnd."
"Hermione," Harry groaned. He had been afraid of this. The Sympathetic Magic that he and Ron were learning to control had driven a wedge between them and their friend. She had continued to study with them, and any time during the day not filled with practice for one thing or another was spent with her, but obviously she was feeling left out.
"Oh, Hermione!" he sighed, hugging her to him, "That's not true. We do love you, don't we Ron?"
Hermione was clutching his robes and crying rather messily into them. Harry hit his partner with a very significant look, and Ron hurried to back him up.
"That's right, Hermione, we do love you," he said hastily, "In fact we'd be lost without you. You're our best friend!"
Both teens had their arms around her and were rocking a little in sympathy. Harry was patting her hair and Ron stroked her arms lightly, hoping to calm her down enough to get her up into a chair before Ginny came back.
"You do?" she asked in a very small voice and the partners rushed to assure her they did. Her mood swung back to very happy again and she sat up brightly.
"We'll always be friends," she proclaimed, "Harry, Ronny and Hermy! Friends forever!"
"Friends forever Hermy," Ron chuckled and got up, hauling her with him.
"Let's have a d-drink!" she suggested, and there was a knock at the door. Ron went to unseal it while Harry settled her in his usual chair, sitting on the arm of it when she refused to let go of his hand. Ginny entered with a very large pot of strong smelling coffee, a couple of mugs and a small bottle of headache potion. Hermione greeted her with delight, and the three of them started the task of sobering Hermione up before Professor McGonagal came to break up the party.
"Now, today gentlemen, we will attempt to master the techniques you have practiced so far without the use of a wand," Professor Flitwick stood on his usual pile of books, "This will require a greater level of concentration initially, as you train yourselves to channel your magic through your fingertips."
Ron nodded rather blearily - the effects of last night's party still ringing in his ears. He and Harry had finished off the fire whiskey together after Hermione had gone to lie down and nurse her incipient hangover. As Harry hadn't liked the taste they'd added it to the pot of coffee that Ginny had left behind. His partner had warmed to the drink straight away, and they'd been a little more than tipsy when they fell into bed that night.
Harry stifled a yawn beside Ron, which the Professor luckily missed, and Ron reached out to touch his wrist. Harry had been very hard to wake this morning and they'd had no time to celebrate their win together, having to rush to make it to Flitwick's classroom on time. As a result, Ron was feeling very... unsettled, and wanted to get this lesson over with so he could get his leg over with his partner later.
/Stay awake you sod/ he warned//or I'll dose you with Pepper Up potion./
"Now, the casting of the spells is exactly the same," Flitwick continued, eying Ron's finger with interest. Ron dropped his friend's wrist and tried to look more awake, "You say the spell as you normally would, but instead of a wand movement, you must use your hands. Unfortunately, I cannot instruct you on the hand movements that will work best for you, because?"
"Each partnership is unique, and therefore uses their magic uniquely," Ron surprised himself with the answer, and smiled when Flitwick beamed at him proudly.
"Precisely!" he squeaked, "Shall we begin? As you can see I have placed several feathers on my desk. I would like you to try the Wingardium Leviosa charm on them. Remember to feel the magic as you summon it. Instead of directing it to your wand, direct it to your target object."
Harry moved and tangled his fingers with Ron's. They grasped each other easily, tenderly this morning, and felt their abilities pool easily together. Ron flexed his fingers and Harry raised his hand instinctively, pointing it at the feathers on the desk.
"Wingardium Leviosa," Ron said quietly, and Harry turned his hand palm up, his fingers spreading a little. Ron felt the tingle of the spell as it left Harry's fingertips and the feathers floated up for a moment before settling on the desk.
"Excellent work, boys!" Flitwick clapped his hands, "Try again! Mr Weasley, I want you to cast and disperse the magic this time, Mr Potter, I want you to simply put your strength at Mr Weasley's command."
This time the feathers stayed in the air a little longer. When Harry was the sole caster he achieved the same result as Ron, and when they cast together they managed to raise the feathers and hold them perfectly still in mid air until Flitwick told them to release the spell.
"I want you to practice this for a few minutes - each taking a turn to cast individually. Once you have mastered that skill we will take this another step forward," the Professor got down from his books and moved over to the bookcase on the back wall. After thirty minutes of steady work, they could levitate the feathers easily and had moved on to the furniture, which was heavier and required a greater draw on their mutual powers.
"Rest for a few minutes," Flitwick said finally and a tray popped into existence on his desk with some biscuits and tea. Ron settled on a chair and pulled Harry onto his lap, wanting to maintain their closeness for a while. Flitwick always beamed at them when they did this, and Harry no longer squirmed or blushed, which took a little of the fun out of it for Ron. Once he had deemed them to be refreshed, Flitwick reviewed the reading he'd asked them to do in a gruelling question and answer session. Then he told them they'd be casting without their wands again, this time with a new twist.
"No touching?" Harry looked a little uncertain, "But I thought that the Magic worked best when we were in contact with each other."
"It does," Flitwick agreed, "But you may one day be faced with a situation where it will not be possible for you to reach each other. You must learn to pool your resources without touch. I do not expect this will work well, or for long at first, but I would be most remiss if I did not instruct you in it now."
Ron sighed and urged Harry up. He waited until the blood returned to his legs and got up as well. Flitwick made them stand on opposite sides of the room and Ron breathed in and out slowly. It took a lot of effort to reach out to Harry magically instead of physically, and it took even longer for them to feel the synchronisation of their abilities. Flitwick stood at the front of the room in his usual spot, absolutely still as Ron raised his hand and pointed it at the feathers.
"Wingardium Leviosa," he muttered and the feathers twitched up off the desk and floated for a few seconds before falling back in place. Flitwick bounced on his toes but did not speak, and a moment later Harry achieved the same effect.
"Excellent!" Flitwick gestured for them to return to his desk, "Now, I know you will be very tired, so we will finish here for today. I want you both to rest this afternoon, and tomorrow we will try again."
"I don't like it," Harry complained, "It feels... wrong, like Ron's missing."
Flitwick's face softened and he leaned over to pat Harry's shoulder.
"I know that it feels unnatural," he sympathised, "But you must practice it diligently. There may come a time when that very skill saves your life or the life of another. It will get easier with practice, Mr Potter, and though you may prefer to be touching your partner when you cast, you must not allow yourself to become overly dependent on it."
"Professor, could we get Hermione to help us practice?" Ron spoke up when Harry had nodded glumly. He had only been speaking Ron's feelings as well, and the redhead had decided not to resist the Professors advice.
"Miss Granger?" Flitwick looked startled, "Of course, she is highly proficient when it comes to her Charm work."
"We'll speak to her about it," Ron said impulsively, "And maybe you could talk to her too? Suggest things she could help us with."
Harry shot his partner an admiring grin. Ron may just have come up with a solution to their friend's worries. Ron smiled back - that particular look always boded well for him.
Hermione had, not to put too fine a point upon it, been delirious with joy at the news that they'd asked Flitwick to let her coach them. She'd gone off straight after Sunday dinner to talk to the Professor about it, and Harry had fixed Ron with a slightly put out look.
"We'll be practicing night and day," he'd said, and Ron shrugged. He was very fond of the Muggle-born Witch and it had been depressing to see her so upset.
"We'll be fine," he told his partner as they walked up the great staircase//we'll just have to point out that we need time together too./
As their fingers were hidden in the folds of their robes, he felt safe making that comment. Harry shot him a devilish look that went straight to his groin, and his fingers were caressed smoothly, heatedly, in a manner that made walking a little difficult. He was forced to let Harry's hand go and suffer the discomfort, as well as the smug look upon his partners face.
By the time they got to Wrestler, Ron was fairly worked up, and he blew through the wall at high speed, followed by his now chuckling partner. He sealed the door behind Harry and then pinned him to it.
"You tease," he ground his very interested dick into Harry's thigh, "You absolute slut."
"Me?" Harry widened his eyes innocently and Ron leaned in to nip at his ear lobe, before kissing his neck passionately. Harry moaned and latched his hands around Ron's waist, flexing his fingers in tiny movements that spoke of need and want. Ron rubbed himself slowly into Harry's thigh, nipping along his jaw to catch hold of his moaning mouth. Their kiss was hot and slow, tongues rubbing sensuously as their bodies reached melting point. Ron felt Harry grow hard against him and growled a little into the kiss.
"Bed!" Harry gasped and Ron pulled away, stumbling backwards towards it, trusting Harry not to walk him into the walls or furniture. Harry's hands were busily removing his clothes, and when he was naked he returned the favour. They'd learned not to do this simultaneously after a nasty spill that had almost resulted in a call to Madam Pomfrey.
They tumbled onto the covers, kissing in earnest, and Ron Summoned the jar they used for lubricant from the dresser without pulling out his wand. Harry moaned and rolled onto his back, spreading his legs to give Ron the access he needed to prepare his lover. Their fingers were lingering on each others skin, speaking of love and passion and pleasure now as they joined their bodies together and established that age old rhythm.
It didn't take long to reach completion, and as they lay basking together in the aftermath Hermione banged on the door.
"Is she the most annoying woman we know or what?" Ron growled and Summoned his wand so they could perform the cleaning spells they preferred to use, and their robes as well.
Hagrid's lesson was the last one they had each Friday, and the three friends often stayed behind to help clean up. Hagrid often invited them to have a cup of tea and his ever-present hard-as-rocks rock cakes. They took the chance to get away from Malfoy's malevolent presence - he'd been in a foul mood ever since the Quidditch match that had ended Slytherins hopes of winning the cup this year. Harry had asked Ron's permission to let Hagrid in on their relationship, and Ron had seen no reason not to tell the half-giant that they were together. Hagrid had been so miserable over Harry's treatment from the Dursley's that Ron was sure their friend would only welcome a bit of happiness in Harry's life.
He'd been right, though Hagrid had pulled him aside and made sure he knew not to toy with Harry's affections. Ron had been able to swear on his wand that he wasn't and Hagrid had been appeased, much to Ron's relief. He sincerely hoped that they never rowed badly enough that Harry would come to Hagrid for solace. The half giant would dismember him without a seconds thought.
Harry was telling Hagrid and Hermione about the visit from Madam Legales, and Hagrid was a getting little misty as he remembered Harry's parents house. Ron glanced at Hermione, hoping she could come up with a diversion for them all.
"Why didn't you renew the lease on the old house site?" she asked Harry promptly, nibbling at the edge of the rock cake she'd been soaking in her tea. Ron had been curious about this, but hadn't found the right time to ask. He didn't think that Harry was planning to sell the place, but couldn't come up with another reason that made sense.
"Well," Harry shot his partner a slightly nervous look, "I was thinking about building a house there again."
Ron gaped at him. Harry knew that his partner would never be able to come up with half of the cost for the building and furnishing of a new house, either now or in the future. His family weren't destitute, but neither would his parents be able to loan him the money. Harry never seemed to notice the difference in their personal fortunes, something that made Ron love and hate him in turn about. He'd never be able to afford half the things that Harry seemed to take for granted, but Harry had merged their worldly possessions so effortlessly, telling Ron that whatever he had was Ron's.
"Harry," Ron tried to keep his voice calm and steady, "You know that I could never afford to pay for my half of this. I don't even have a job to start paying for it."
"What's mine is yours," Harry reminded him, flushing a little, "And you'll be contributing the knowledge part of this little idea of mine, because I have no idea what a house needs to be a home. I lived with the Dursley's remember?"
Ron bit his lip. It was a peace offering - Harry wouldn't really need his advice, his partner was more than capable of building himself a good home. As peace offerings went though, it was a good one. Harry hadn't much experience with Wizard houses, beyond a few weeks spent at the Burrow. Ron could contribute there - and Harry would gladly allow him to shape the house however he wanted.
"I doubt you'll need much help from me, but thanks," Ron sighed, deciding to accept it for now and talk it over in private with Harry later. Harry looked as if he understood that, and Ron smiled at him, reaching out to stroke Harry's wrist, sending a single word that had his partner relaxing.
"Who will ye get ter build it?" Hagrid asked, redirecting the conversation, and Harry brightened up. Ron tucked his arm around him and listened with an open mind to Harry's plan.
"Well, I thought that we'd get it done in the summer holidays. Then Ron and I could camp at the house and supervise it. We'll get a Muggle company to build it for us, and Ron and I will expand it magically once they're done. We could also set up the house wards and protection together once the builders were finished," Harry said happily, "Old Tom won't be expecting us to spend the summer living as Muggles."
"True," Ron agreed, "He'll be expecting us to go to the Burrow or to stay here."
"What sort of house would you build?" Hermione asked, and Hagrid got up from the table, fishing around in his bedside cabinet for something. Harry waited until the half giant had returned to the table and put a photo down on it.
"Here," he grunted, "This is what it looked like before. This is th' back yard, o' course. It was called Potters Field 'cos there was clay in th' field that th' locals quarried out. Yer parent's stabilised th' quarry an' built their ground floor in it. Then there was another two floors above, an' th' attic o' course."
Hagrid was standing with James by the backdoor of a grey stone cottage. The door was open, and Harry caught a glimpse of stairs through the door. His father and Hagrid were grinning at the camera, bottles of butter beer in their hands. Harry smiled gently and reached out to pat Hagrid's wrist. Ron could feel the tension in his partner's shoulders, and squeezed them lightly. As much as Harry wanted to know about his parents and their past, at the same time the topic raised feelings that his friend had a hard time dealing with. It was a difficult paradox.
"It's a good picture," he said, "How long had they been at the cottage?"
"Just moved in," Hagrid replied with a chuckle, "An' that was a job I'll tell yer. Doors were too narrow for the furniture. We had a job getting it all in."
Everyone around the table smiled, and Ron let his partner absorb the photo in peace. He rubbed his fingers in soothing circles around on Harry's shoulder, projecting his support and understanding.
"Did they... clear the ruins away?" Hermione asked hesitantly. Hagrid nodded curtly.
"They took it all away to be destroyed," he confirmed, "It was tainted by You-Know-Who's last curse. Th' land were ok, tho'."
"So we'd have to start from scratch," Harry squared his shoulders, and pulled out his wand. His conjured up a copy of the photo and then erased the house and people, leaving behind the land. This was something they'd learned from Colin Creevey and his photographic hobby. Hagrid tucked the original away safely and Hermione leaned in over the picture.
"You could put the kitchen and a dining room downstairs," she suggested and Harry tapped the photo. A line drawing of a large room labelled kitchen and dining room appeared in the empty hole.
"We could also have a conservatory there," Ron suggested, "Make it a suntrap, and grow our herbs and things there. We'd need windows up near the ceiling on the side that is against the quarry wall to let in light and air on that side too."
Harry tapped the drawing again and the alterations appeared. Hagrid chuckled, pointing to one corner.
"Yer'll need stairs," he reminded them, "And yer'll need a laundry."
"Put the stairs in the middle of the house," Hermione suggested, "They'll run all the way through the house, right? So you'll want them to be accessible."
"Ok," Harry finished adding that, and Ron nodded approval when his partner looked at him. He was getting rather excited by it all; he'd never helped design a house, let alone one he was building for himself and his partner. Harry was leaning into him subtly, making Ron feel contented.
"Next floor," Harry said, "I think we should have a wide hallway that leads from the front door to the stairs."
"Good idea," Ron nodded, "We can put two large rooms on each side of the hall, one front room and one study."
Harry tapped it, and Ron nodded at the updated drawing. The stairs were in the right place with a small landing halfway up to save on space, and Hagrid cleared his throat. He looked a little pink, and Ron was sure that whatever he was about to say was probably going to point out a glaring error in the plans.
"Yer should think about puttin' a toilet in there," he tapped the back of the room designated the study, "Or yer'll be climbing up three flights of stairs ter use the loo."
"Good point," Ron grinned, and Harry made the adjustments. Hermione looked at the plan and nodded before pointing out they hadn't put any windows or doors in on this floor. Harry laughed and put the doors in, while Ron pointed out where he thought the windows should go, making sure they were wide enough to admit Hedwig. Pigwidgeon was so small that it would fit in through just about anything but the mail slot.
"What sort of walls would you like to have?" he asked his partner, who grinned so happily his breath caught. Ron made a mental note not to make difficulties over the house. He knew that Harry wouldn't want to live in Grimmauld Place, and that meant they'd be renting or buying a place of their own after school anyway. At least this way they'd be in a place that was truly their own.
"I've seen your house. Our book collection is growing almost every day, and Dobby has already had to find us another bookcase to go behind the door. I was planning on lots of bookshelves built in everywhere."
Ron laughed, acknowledging that he was the biggest book collector of the two, though Harry was no slouch in that department.
"You haven't put in a fireplace anywhere," Hermione pointed out, "How will you access the Floo network?"
They went back and added a large hearth in the dining room, and slightly smaller ones in the front room and the room Harry relabelled the library, to snickers from Hagrid. Hermione was also smiling at their antics.
"Third floor," Harry cleared his throat, "Bathroom in the same place?" he looked over at Ron, who nodded agreement.
"That will make it easier for the builder," Hermione noted, "It's hard to run water all over the house, and they'll make it more expensive."
They played around with the placement of rooms on that floor, ending up having to rearrange the stairs from the kitchen on up in order to make things work out. Harry and Ron bickered a little over where they wanted their room to be, and then Ron informed Hermione she'd have to choose how to decorate her room on that floor.
"My room?" Hermione looked a little startled, and Harry laughed. He was looking like the carefree teen that he should have been, instead of the cold worried man that most people saw. The last summer holidays had left their mark stamped on him indelibly, and Ron was all for anything that would make his partner lose the years he'd gained prematurely.
"You will be visiting I assume?" he asked her pointedly, "After all, you're our closest friend. Just not too much pink, ok?"
"Sure. Don't forget to give me a window and bookcase," Hermione ordered and Hagrid chuckled while Harry and Ron laughed.
"We'll need two guest rooms, really - Hermione and Ginny will share one, and one for everyone else," Ron mused, and Harry tapped the drawing again, "Unless you don't want my family staying too often?"
The look Harry gave him more than reassured him that the Weasley family were highly desired visitors at their new home. Ron knew that his family would be frequent visitors, and was grateful that his partner understood the close ties between them all.
Ron gasped as the magic released him, and reached out a hand to Harry. They had been running through their paces for Flitwick, working without wands or touch to make the instruments in front of them play. The partners had become caught up in the magic, feeling it flow with intoxicating ease between the two of them as they cast their charms and directed their efforts together. They'd also been caught up in the music, the sound becoming a living thing in the room for Ron, one that he could shape and direct along with his perfectly understanding partner.
Harry's warm fingers caressed and then gripped his. They'd never managed to enchant so many instruments at the same time before, and the effort had been exhausting. They had gotten better at working without wands and touch, and it though it still wasn't their favourite casting method, they were comfortable enough with it now.
"Excellent!" Flitwick clapped his hands, and Hermione joined in. Their audience had been enthralled, and Ron had a vague idea he'd seen them dancing together, "Come and sit down, boys."
Ron led his partner to the bench and pulled Harry into his lap as he always did. Hermione had given them a rather strange look the first time they did this in front of their Professor, which Flitwick had spotted; he had explained that the partners recovered more quickly if they were touching, and that had settled the matter.
Ron reached out and put an arm around Hermione as well, grinning at his Professor.
"Right now I'm the most envied student in the school," he said with a rather satisfied expression on his face. Hermione gave him a rather startled look; sitting very still beneath his arm as if she was worried he was about to molest her.
"Why is that?" Flitwick went along with Ron's obviously cheeky mood. Their Professor had revealed a wicked sense of humour in the time that they'd been tutored by him.
"I've got my arms around the two prettiest people in Gryffindor," Ron replied and Hermione smacked his chest lightly with the back of her hand.
"Oi," Harry protested softly, feeding Ron part of a scone. Ron was rubbing the small of Harry's back again, therefore practically putting his partner to sleep on his lap. Ron had actually performed that little feat before, but they'd been in bed that time, and Harry had been very tired.
"No hitting my partner," Harry continued, resting his cheek on Ron's head and sighing in contentment. Hermione grinned at them and ceased her protests, biting into a scone of her own.
"I must compliment you on your progress boys," Flitwick ignored the byplay, "You have worked very hard to achieve such a level of competency in a short time."
"Thanks to you, Professor," Ron spoke up, "You've been brilliant. And Hermione has been a real help too - the extra practices with her really made this easier on us both."
Harry leant over and dropped a kiss on Hermione's temple before leaning back into Ron. Hermione flushed a little but her hand joined Harry's on the back of Ron's robe. The three of them were back in synch with each other once more - the partnership formed by Harry and Ron hadn't killed their tie to Hermione after all.
Ron could only hope that their lessons with Professor Snape next term would be as easy. Easter was approaching rapidly.
"I will speak to Professor Snape if you like," Flitwick said suddenly, "About allowing Miss Granger to continue to sit in on your practices. Though the potions themselves will be beyond your ability Miss Granger, I believe the theory will interest you, and perhaps be of help in your own potion making endeavours."
"Would you like to come, Hermy?" Harry's drowsy voice drifted past Ron's ear, "I know that you have a lot of work to do with your own subjects."
"I'd like to come, if Professor Snape allows it," Hermione nodded, and Flitwick clapped his hands, directing Harry to get up so they could work on a particularly intricate protection charm that they were working into a gold and silver bracelet. The charm entailed taking strands of gold and silver and weaving them into an intricate Celtic knot arrangement.
Hermione didn't know this, but the bracelet would be hers when they finished. It was meant to thank her for standing by them over the year.
Harry scowled at his partner, who made a rather pointed gesture. They'd flipped a Knut to see who would be asking Snape if he had a booklist that they'd need for their work with the Potions master next term. He hated the idea of asking Snape for extra help in anything - the Occlumency lessons were still vivid in his memory. He'd failed at them so badly...
Harry squared his shoulders. He'd have Ron with him this time, and that would help. At least he'd have someone else to gauge his reactions by. Ron wouldn't let him get away with stupidity, and Hermione was allowed to sit in again, which meant that Harry would be very well grounded in reality.
Leaving the potion to stir itself - one of the simpler tasks that Harry had learned to perform - he moved between the tables, walking past Malfoy carefully so as not to start any incident with the embittered Slytherin. He could feel that Ron had his own hand on his wand, ready to defend him should Malfoy truly lose his head and start something in front of the Potion master.
"What is it, Potter?" Snape growled without looking up from staring at Neville through slitted eyes. Harry straightened, and took a calming breath.
"I wanted to know if you had a book list for the extra lessons next term," he said quietly. Malfoy perked right up, and sneered in his direction.
"Remedial potions again Potter?" he asked loudly, and Snape looked away from Neville finally to spear his student with a very cold look.
"Shut up Malfoy," he snapped, and turned his gaze to Harry. Harry waited for the usual sneer and look of thinly veiled hatred that was always aimed in his direction. Snape merely stared at him for a moment, and then heaved a huge sigh.
"I assume that you'll purchase the books at the end of the Easter holidays, Potter. Why bother asking for them now?" he sneered and Harry bit back on a sharp retort. He knew that there was bad blood between Snape and his father - and that it was justified to some extent. However, he was sick of being made to pay for the actions of a man he'd never known, or tried to emulate. Not that he'd know what to emulate.
"I asked for them now so I could start reading them now," Harry replied evenly, "I'll send an owl for them tonight."
Snape looked at him for a moment longer, then drew a piece of parchment over and scrawled a long list onto it. Harry took it silently and turned to go back to his potion. Malfoy moved around his cauldron and Harry tensed. They were working with some nasty ingredients today - a splash from the wrong thing could result in very painful burns at the very least.
"Don't move, Mr Malfoy," Snape's voice was low and cold. The threat in it was crystal clear and Harry hurried past the other student, making sure not to even brush the end of Malfoy's table with his robes. The last thing Harry needed was a detention because of Malfoy's acting abilities.
Ron relaxed when Harry returned to their part of the dungeon. A quick glance at the potion the class was brewing led to the swift addition of the next ingredient, with Harry taking over the stirring at this stage. He was relieved to see it turn a nasty shade of red - that meant he'd caught it in time.
"I got my book allowance from Mum at dinner," Ron said in a low voice, chopping blood mushrooms into paper-thin slices while his potion stirred itself in the complex rotating figure eight that was required.
"Ok, we'll split the list as usual," Harry murmured in reply, taking up his mortar and pestle for the last bit of preparation. Ron nodded and looked down at what he was doing with a decidedly unusual expression on his face.
"What?" Harry whispered, and Ron shrugged, shaking his head a little. Hermione gave the redhead a rather exasperated look and turned to Harry.
"Ron thinks that the Professor is looking at you funny," she explained in a low voice. Harry looked at them both in astonishment, then glanced up at Snape. The Professor was looking at him with a rather blank face, but when Harry turned, Snape immediately switched his gaze to Neville again. Harry went back to his potion, wondering what that had been all about.
Ron watched the last of the students who were leaving over Easter head down the path to the carriages that were waiting for them. The weather was finally starting to give them solid stretches of nice sunshine, and he was looking forward to the holidays. They were going to the Burrow again, and Ginny was going home with Hermione for the holidays.
If Ron listened really hard he could still hear Seamus and Lee yelling in indignation about the cancelled Seven Nation Cup - it seemed that no one had been able to reorganise things in time for the Cup to go ahead. He'd thought there would be a riot in the Great Hall over breakfast this morning when the news had hit the papers. Footsteps sounded behind him, and Harry's arms crept around his waist.
"Hello my lover," Harry breathed into his ear, and Ron felt his knees go weak. He loved it when Harry nibbled or sucked or breathed on his ears. He grunted in reply and felt the lips pressed to his neck curve up in a smile.
"Ready to go soon?" Harry murmured and Ron sighed. He was unsure exactly what Harry meant by that comment - he was after all a healthy teenager who was always ready to go - but they were facing a journey and Ron preferred not to arrive looking all flushed and dopey.
"I'm ready to go home to Mum, if that's what you mean," he said firmly, "And you'll get it tonight, you bloody little tease."
"Good," Harry let him go and Ron laughed, turning to run his fingers down the side of Harry's face gently before following his partner to where they'd left their luggage.
"Are you sure we can get the builders organised these hols?" Ron asked, and Harry nodded. His partner had some scheme up his sleeve that had Ron rather suspicious as it involved Muggle technology. They had both agreed that the house should be built in the traditional Muggle fashion, thereby putting You-Know-Who totally off their track. Bill had assured them that the goblins weren't passing on banking information to the Death Eaters, though their loyalty to the Ministry was still in some doubt - mainly by Fudge who had oppressed the goblins for quite some time.
"I can't wait to see this," Ron shook his head and they pulled on their winter cloaks. Things were still pretty cool out there, despite the bright sunshine, and the walk to Hogsmeade was no picnic when you were dressed for the wrong weather.
"Look, there's a few things that Muggles do very well that most Wizards, and Death Eaters especially, either won't know about, or won't know how to do," Harry said patiently, "My Muggle school taught me how to do what I want to do..."
"Which you won't tell me about," Ron grumped, hitching up the heavy satchel with Snape's books and a few of the Muggle fiction books he'd not yet had time to read - mainly because they had only arrived this morning.
"And I'll explain it to you as we go," Harry promised. He was also carrying a satchel, though his was a bit larger as it had a few changes of clothes in it. Both of them felt the moment they were out from under the Hogwarts protection spells and Ron led the way a little further down the path just to be sure. Their training with Professor Flitwick had enabled them to feel the use of magic around them, like a tingling on the skin. Of course, there was so much magic in use at Hogwarts that they became rather inured to the feeling, only noticing when they went from an area of heavy magic usage to light.
Ron went first, Apparating into the garden, close to the tree where Harry had chosen to arrive at Christmas. Sure enough, his partner Disapparated beside him, and blinked in surprise.
"You really don't think that Mum would be best pleased to have you arriving like some stranger again, do you?" he asked pointedly. Harry simply didn't take anything for granted - and while Ron appreciated the daily appreciation he got from Harry, it saddened him that his partner often felt that people only put up with him because they wanted something from him. Harry still didn't believe that he was loveable, but Ron was working on it.
"Ron! Harry!" his mother had spotted them from the window and Ron took Harry's hand. He grinned at his partner, who smiled back a little hesitantly.
"Stuck with me," Ron reminded in a low tone, "Even if you won't tell me what you're planning."
Ottery St Catchpole was a medium sized village, with a main street that boasted something called an internet café. Ron had been a little disappointed that they were only heading to a café - they'd just finished breakfast and even he couldn't eat again just yet. Harry had grinned at him and led the way in anyway, looking good in one of Ron's Christmas jumpers. The maroon wool hugged all the muscles his partner was developing through Quidditch, and made a greedy part of Ron sit up and beg.
Inside the café, instead of the tables and food Ron had been expecting, there were rows of Muggle machines, a counter with Muggle sweets, and a Muggle who was frowning at Harry.
"What are you using it for?" she asked, still frowning when Ron tuned in to the conversation. He stepped closer to his partner in case she decided to try anything funny. They both had their wands up their sleeves, though Ron knew they didn't always need them any more thanks to Flitwick. They cast spells with their wands only when working alone, and obviously their teachers weren't going to be too impressed if they started handing in a single piece of work for the two of them.
"We're researching a project," Harry replied reasonably, "And we really only need one machine."
"You can share a chair too then," she wrote something on a slip of paper and handed it over with a rather triumphant look in her eyes. Ron immediately slid his arms around Harry and nuzzled his neck. From what Harry had said about Muggles she wouldn't take this too well, and they'd get their way.
"Perfect," he purred into his partner's ear while the Muggles eyes widened in dismay. Harry was shaking with suppressed laughter, but he leaned into the touch anyway. Ron didn't mind about this Muggle knowing they were together - in fact it felt good to claim Harry in front of witnesses for once. From the way Harry's fingers were stroking his he felt the same way.
"Here! We'll have none of that! Two chairs, two chairs!" she exclaimed and Ron peeled away slowly and reluctantly, letting Harry lead him into the back room of the café and over to a machine at the end of one of the long benches.
/Thank you/ Harry's fingers murmured as they sat down, and Ron grinned at him. He watched Harry start the machine up and the box on top started displaying various images and words.
"So what are we doing?" Ron asked, aware of the Muggles nearby. He hitched his chair closer and rested his hand on Harry's leg, establishing communications silently. Harry's hand dropped to cover his in order to reply.
He was told that the machine was called a computer and that Muggles had developed a way to link all of their computers together in order to share information, do business, tell stories and entertain each other. They called it the internet, and Harry was going to use it to firstly place the design of their house onto the computer, and then contract a builder to build it in the summer holidays.
"How can you get the picture of the house into that?" Ron asked out loud, and Harry pulled the lettered board over in front of him and started pressing things. The box changed pictures again and again until Harry found one he was interested in. Using the small round thing next to the lettered board he started drawing up the house, asking for Ron's help with remembering how it had gone.
Ron leaned in and pointed things out, watching Harry's actions closely so that he could eventually take over some of the work. Harry silently told him what the computer parts were called and how to operate them, and together they drew up their home to be and saved it to the computers hard drive. The lady behind the counter popped up at one point to check on what they were doing, and seemed disappointed when she saw.
"She probably thought we were checking out the porn sites," Harry laughed and Ron frowned at him. He knew what porn was - the twins had been lending him their collection of magazines for the past two years - but he wasn't sure what Muggles meant by the term.
"What's that?" he asked, and Harry promised to show him one before they left. Ron's stomach growled at that point and Harry pulled out a couple of coins, telling him to get them both a snack from the lady out front. She watched Ron suspiciously the whole time he looked over her selection, eventually heading back to Harry with a small pile of interesting sounding sweets.
Harry was typing away in a blue screen this time, and Ron sat down to read it through.
"Your name isn't Adam Nonymous," he pointed out, and Harry grinned, "What are you doing?"
"Setting up an address for us to receive messages," Harry replied, "I don't want to use our names for the account in case a Muggle-born spots us."
"Can they do that?" Ron raised an eyebrow and Harry shrugged, then nodded.
"If they were sufficiently skilled at it," his partner smiled, "There are a lot of people on the internet who like to stay anonymous, it's not that uncommon. Ready to look for builders?"
"There are builders on this? I thought we wanted a real house," Ron squinted suspiciously and sucked on something called a polo. It wasn't bad actually and he popped one into Harry's mouth as well. Harry's fingers thanked him as his partner called up the first screen they'd visited.
"They will be in real life, but there should be a register of builders here somewhere," he typed quickly, and then started reading when the screen changed. Ron was fascinated by what was apparently an archive and library all in one that let you send owls to speak to people without using a real bird. Muggles had some mad ideas, obviously developed to get around their lack of magic.
Twenty minutes later they had found a builder that was local to Godrics Hollow and had excellent references. Harry printed the contact details and their house plans, before sending a copy to the builder as well, with a request that he email back to them a time when they could meet at the site to discuss the whole thing. He went to retrieve their printouts, and then came back to sit next to Ron.
"Now," Harry murmured in the tone of voice that always made Ron a little nervous. His partner typed in another request, and then selected a site that interested him.
/This is porn/ his fingers stroked the message into Ron's arm as the screen changed and Ron nearly fell off his chair. He went bright red and knew it, but couldn't help staring in a kind of horrible fascination at the very graphic picture on the screen. The naked woman was interesting enough, but what she was doing with the man...
"That can't be real!" he pointed, "Can you imagine buying trousers to..."
"OI!" the lady behind the counter had spotted them and Harry started laughing helplessly. He switched off the computer and Ron had to haul him out of his seat so they could go and pay. She glowered at them all the way out the door, and Ron shook his head at his partner when they were safely on the footpath.
"I can't take you anywhere," he scolded lightly, and then groaned when Harry leered. Ron shook his head, rather pleased that Harry could be playful with him in public. His eyes fell on a shop across the road and lit up.
"Is that a bookstore?" he pointed and Harry glanced and the black sign with the golden 'w' hanging above the door. Ron grinned when he nodded and cocked his head at the store in a questioning manner. They could always use a few more Muggle books, and Ron wanted to see if there was anything in there about building a Muggle house.
"Come on then," Harry grinned, "But we're not to spend all day in there - your mum's expecting us for dinner."
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