Harry stumbled out of the fireplace, feeling sick. Bloody awful way to travel, he thought, but there wasn't much chance of his staying on his broom right now. He just hoped Ron wasn't, er, busy. The thought drunkenly crossed Harry's mind that Ron might have a date or… something. That could be awkward.
Harry flopped to his knees in Ron's living room, or what passed for one in the cheap Ministry flat, tried to get up, and decided, no… hands and knees was good… as his stomach settled. Ron would kill him if he threw up on the ugly carpet, though it might just improve it, as Ron would be the first to admit. Harry moaned.
"Harry - ?" Ron's sleepy voice grumbled from the bedroom. There were few people allowed past the junior Auror's Wards - and only one who'd show up at this hour. "Dammit… can't you owl or something? Y'know… 'Dear Ron - Plan to get smashed. See you at ridiculous hour of night.' Be a nice change - and don't throw up on the carpet, or this time I'll leave it for you!"
Wow. Ron sure was grouchy at three in the morning. Hangers jangled, and Harry gazed up, tried to focus as Ron emerged from the bedroom, tying a bathrobe and rubbing his eyes.
"Disgusting, look at you…" Ron scowled. "Into the showers first. Don't touch anything." The gentle grip under Harry's arms and the warm, strong hands lifting him up belied his rough words. "C'mon," Ron grunted. "You can tell me all about it in the bath…."
Harry groaned, and stumbled in the vague direction of the loo, bumping against Ron. He was getting Ron's bathrobe messy, but Ron didn't seem to care.
"That's it…" Ron said soothingly as he settled Harry on the toilet seat. Ron sounded just like his mum. The sound of the shower spurting startled Harry. "Strip. And in. Now."
Harry whimpered a complaint. The buttons just slipped out of his hands as he tried to undo them…
"I can't believe you." Ron roughly undid the buttons. Right. As if Ron had never been drunk before, he and his hard-partying Auror friends. Ron never showed up at Harry's house dead drunk only because Harry didn't live alone… but that brought back why Harry was drunk in the first place. The sharp water hit Harry's face.
Harry leaned his forehead against cool tile. He worried briefly about his clothes… he didn't remember taking them off… but then figured Ron would not let him into his tub dressed. Ron was funny like that….
"So then… ?" Ron asked. His voice echoed in the bathroom. "What did he say, what did you say - then what did you do and what did he do. Oh! -- almost forgot -- what did you break as you slammed the door? By-the-way, you're gonna have to get a job if you keep breaking things like that. Nothing Snape owns is cheap."
Harry wasn't that predictable, was he? Though Ron had just described their fight spot on. But Harry didn't know what he broke. He just heard something crash. The water felt so good, he didn't want to think.
"But let's have the short version tonight, shall we?" Ron said tiredly. Water beaded off the shower curtain with a rough sound.
"Bad week?" Harry managed, water cascading down his back while his head swam.
"Mission all cocked up… Ministry's got its head up its arse -- not that I can do anything about it, mind, arse extraction's not-my-job-thank-you -- Percy can have it. You know I really feel sorry for him these days? But I need some sleep for a change…." Through the curtain Harry could see Ron lean an arm on the sink and run a hand through his hair.
Harry started to feel guilty. Which meant the water was having an effect. "How's it going? What d'they want'choo to do now?"
"Far as I can tell -? To say 'I told you so' after the fact. But I'm damned good at it if I don't say so myself."
" 'M'sorry, Ron…"
"Don't be. I knew they were idiots when I joined up, who could miss it?" Ron snorted. "I'm simply refining my theory of idiocy. There are 'bumping off a wall' idiots who can't see what's right in front of them, there's 'rushing madly in a circle' idiots - why, it takes all kinds to make the Ministry as crazy as it is!"
"Oh Ron... y'know, you don't have to wait up… I - I can get myself to the couch." Harry hung onto the cold sink as he stepped out of the shower. He blinked water out of his eyes. Now. If only the sink would hold still, Harry could find the door out of the bathroom.
"Uh-huh. Maybe. Or you might just leave the water running." Ron said pointedly. He leaned over and brushed past Harry to turn off the shower. "Nope. Staying right here till you're safely tucked into the WUC, thanks."
The WUC was their private joke, which stood for 'World's Ugliest Couch,' a fair description of the monstrosity that squatted in Ron's living room. Ron said it was a good thing it was vomit-coloured, given his friends. Its sole virtue was that it was large and surprisingly comfortable. Harry started to stagger in what he thought was the direction of the door.
He was forgetting something, Harry thought, though he felt a lot better. And he smelled better he was sure…. Ron looked like he was going fall asleep on his arms on the sink. He smelled like cologne and musk. And something smoky, like all Aurors. He must not have had a shower before bed. He had no business smelling so good.
"Harry… um…" Ron chortled, "would you like a towel?"
Ah. That's what Harry forgot.
Ron wrapped the towel around him, complete with a soft Warming Charm. His hands were warmer than the cloth and Harry sighed into both. Ron was good at such homey details, which made his place a palace to Harry. Ron said he learned it all from his mum, but Harry doubted Fred or George, or even Percy, would bother.
As Ron's arm settled around Harry to guide him to the couch, Harry's dulled senses jangled at the touch of bare skin and warmth through a thin T-shirt; while the other part of his mind argued that of-course-Ron-had-taken-off-his-robe, he'd gotten vomit on it.
But Ron's warm hard chest at his back felt so good. Harry was glad of an excuse to press into it, to smell the heat of him, as Ron guided the stumbling Harry to the couch. Ron had nice legs, with just the boxers on. His scent was really strong… sweat and musk. Harry liked sweat, especially on someone as physical as Ron. Harry drank him in, letting his head loll back onto Ron's shoulder. Harry nuzzled Ron's neck, pale and soft, lipped at Ron's sandpaper chin with a slight moan. He just needed….
Two hands seized and cupped Harry's hands, as they circled Ron's waist. Then gently pulled him off. At Hogwarts Ron might have shouted, 'dammit Harry, I like girls!' But now there was no anger, just a shake of the head, and a more accurate assessment, "You'd regret it in the morning. Like that hangover you're going to have," Ron added.
He made Harry lie down, stood and gestured with his wand. A sheet fluttered from the closet to the couch. Ron must have learned every homemaking spell there was, Harry thought, as the comforting sheet settled over him. A blanket soon followed.
"It'll work out, Harry. I know there aren't a lot of greasy, ugly, mean-spirited bastards to choose from -- not all in one package at least, lucky you -- but Snape'll come 'round. Or you will. Whoever's at fault this time." Ron raised his hand before Harry could protest. "Yeah, I know, it's always his fault. Who am I to argue? It's not like your fights ever make sense anyway."
Limply, Harry had to agree. He already couldn't figure it out. What was it - ? Oh yeah --
"He brings Cursed Artifacts into the house!" Harry spluttered righteously.
"Yeah, well, everyone has to have a hobby," Ron yawned cheerfully. "I'm just glad I'm not your neighbor. Between the shouting, breaking things and door slamming I doubt they get any sleep."
Ron shuddered as he tucked the blanket around Harry's feet. Ron stood with a satisfied sound.
"Okay. Pepper-Up's in the bath when you need it tomorrow. Take twice what you think, it's not that illegal dragon acid Snape makes. I wouldn't take it now though; it'll keep you awake." Ron made to go back to bed after telling Harry all these things he already knew, but were comforting nonetheless.
"Ron…" Harry said after him, anxiously, blanket tucked up to his chin. Ron paused. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me. You threw up in my Floo," Ron answered with a malicious grin. "Guess what you're cleaning up tomorrow?"
Harry winced. He inwardly debated whether it was worse to clean it drunk, or with a miserable hangover. Since he was already clean, he opted for putting off hardship and snuggled into the blankets to sleep.
He stared at the door as it shut, blearily thinking it would have been nice to have slept on the other side of it tonight. But Ron was right, of course. As usual. He was a good friend.