A/N: You know the drill. I don't own Harry Potter or anything that even remotely has to do with Harry Potter. It all belongs to JK Rowling.
My friend Katie was the one who actually convinced me I should write a slash story. And this isn't really slash, more a precursor to it, I guess. I had some reservations about actually posting this, but my beta-reader Nita was the one who finally gave me the courage to do it! And she's not a big fan of slash fics, as some of you know. I'm very nervous about this, so I hope you guys like it. And, if you don't like it, please don't read it.
This is a one-shot with the possibility of a continuance if the story gets some positive feedback.
Harry is 15, Ron is 16.
Summary: When Harry comes to visit the Burrow during summer break, Ron and Harry seem to do more fighting than anything else. Molly thinks she knows the reason behind it…and isn't sure how to feel.
Harry sat on the hard bench staring with remorse at his swinging feet. He'd been having a great time at the Weasley's, he really had. For a while at least, but all good things must come to an end, or so they said.
A month before school began the Dursley's decided they were going to go on a mini vacation. Without Harry. They had begrudgingly called the Weasley's to see if they could take the wretched boy in. They were well aware of the fact that Harry wasn't allowed to stay at the Dursley's by himself. If they even acted like they were going to step out the door without Harry in tow they got the life scared out of them by an angry witch or wizard reading them the riot act. Even with wards up and working, it was best if he stayed within Petunia's grasp at all times.
So, knowing they'd be slaughtered on site if they didn't have the boy with them, they'd decided to let Harry go spend the rest of the Holiday with a 'friend.' Despite the fact that this would make the boy extremely happy, they had allowed it in order to have some happiness of their own. Without Harry.
A day later, with Dumbledore's permission, Harry found himself with a small bag standing in the kitchen of the Burrow. He'd been ecstatic. A month without his bloody relatives, what more could he possibly ask for?
A week into his own little vacation, Harry and Ron had been getting along just fine. The twins were minding their own business, nothing had exploded, and Ginny kept mostly to herself. The fighting started, of all things, over a game of chess.
Harry never won a game against Ron. So, the one and only time it happened, Ron had actually accused him of cheating. It was preposterous. It had been sheer luck on Harry's part, but Ron had been too irritated to care. Ron had been tired that night, Harry knew. When Ron was tired, Ron was irritable. It must have been a red-haired thing. As the evening progressed, Harry had decided not to take Ron's accusation to heart. He would apologize in the morning he thought for certain.
Ron did apologize. But over the course of the next few days, the two had begun to fight over stupid things, usually with Ron's persuasion, occasionally with Harry's too. They fought over who got the first biscuit at breakfast, they fought over what radio station to listen to, they fought over who sat where at the kitchen table or on the living room couch. They even fought over who Harry wrote his letters to when he had dared to respond to an inquiry from Seamus asking how he was doing after the events of the previous school year.
It was constant yelling and badgering and Harry silently wondered what was happening to their friendship. He believed he had done something wrong because they had never fought over such trivial things before. It was ridiculous what they fought over and Harry was beginning to think it was his entire fault. That their friendship was falling apart and there was nothing he could do to fix it. Any attempt so far had failed.
He wanted to stop fighting.
He just wasn't sure how. He'd tried ignoring the redhead or walking away when Ron started in on the younger boy, but no matter how hard he tried, he still ended up arguing with him just on sheer annoyance alone.
So, it came as no big surprise when he and Ron really went to blows over another letter from Seamus. It was utterly stupid that Ron seemed so angry over some stupid letters. Honestly, what was the big deal? Was he actually jealous that he and Seamus might become better friends than he and Ron were? Well…at the rate they were going, Harry thought they just might. It wasn't a pleasant thought.
Harry had been reading another of Seamus' letters in his and Ron's shared bedroom when the older boy had come in. Upon seeing who the letter was from, Ron had gone off on another tangent for reasons Harry still couldn't seem to fathom. It was so strange to him that his best friend was jealous over him corresponding with Seamus Finnegan of all people.
Ron had yelled at Harry about going and staying with Seamus if he was so 'buddy buddy' with the other boy. He even went so far as to threaten to kick Harry out of the Burrow. At that precise moment, the twins had decided to stick their heads into the room to see if they could stop yet another fight between the two boys. It was virtually useless, the fight had begun and their little brother was being his usual irrational self.
However, Harry wasn't in the mood to fight anymore. He stomped down the stairs and into the living room. Ron followed hot on his heels, followed by the twins. Mrs. Weasley had sighed in irritation, having been well on her way to being fed up with the two boys. When the heated fighting came into her living area, she threw her hands up in frustration. That was when Harry pushed Ron away from him, as the bigger boy had been crowding his space, and incidentally made his friend knock over an antique vase that Molly's mother had given to her on her wedding day.
That had been the last straw for Mrs. Weasley. It had been decided then and there that Harry would have to go back home. Harry had tried to apologize again and again for messing up, he even promised his friend's mum that he would help around the house. She had regretfully shaken her head, telling him that Harry's going home was also a punishment for Ron. Harry didn't quite understand how that could be a bad thing in Ron's eyes, but he just let it go. He was going back home. That meant the Dursley's had to come back from their 'mini vacation.' That definitely didn't bode well for the small green-eyed boy.
That was how Harry found himself sitting on a hard bench at the train station, waiting not so patiently for his Uncle to come and pick him up. The Weasley's were still there waiting with him. After all, he couldn't be left unattended for his own safety.
"Harry, sweetie, what time did your Uncle say he'd pick you up?" asked Mrs. Weasley. She sat across from the small boy on another uncomfortable bench. She looked at her watch and back at the forlorn looking child across from her. She felt awful about sending him home, but it was for the best. Not only could she not overlook the constant arguing and fighting the boys had continued to do, but she was beginning to think she understood why Ron had been so callous to his best friend. She also knew she wasn't sure how she felt about it yet.
"He said he'd be here around noon, Mrs. Weasley," he said sadly. He glanced up and caught Ron looking at him from beside his mum. Ron quickly averted his eyes. Harry sighed.
"He's a bit late. Is that normal for him?" she asked, having only met the man a handful of times. She wasn't fond of the man, that was for certain, but he did strike her as a timely man.
"Sometimes," whispered Harry. He wondered if his Uncle had decided to go get plowed before he picked his nephew up. It wouldn't be the first time, but he hoped the man would have the intelligence to not do it in front of his friends. Well, he wasn't so sure if he still had them as friends. Ron wasn't talking to him and didn't seem upset in the least that he was being sent back home. The twins were on Ron's side just due to the fact that they were brothers. It was what brothers did. Harry had not and would never have the opportunity to know what that kind of loyalty felt like.
Just as Harry was beginning to wonder if his Uncle had just plain forgotten him, he felt the overbearing presence of his Uncle standing slightly behind him. From behind him, Harry felt as the man put his meaty hands on his slim shoulders and squeezed. He flinched.
"What's the meaning of this?" asked Vernon, his breath letting Harry know that the man wasn't drunk. That was one thing in his favor, he hoped. "We had an agreement that Harry would stay with you for the rest of the summer."
Harry wasn't surprised his Uncle was trying to argue against what was happening. He had yelled and screamed at Harry on the phone when he'd called the man to come and pick him up at the train station. Still, it was embarrassing to Harry as he watched Mrs. Weasley's face turn into a stern expression. He was in so much trouble when they got back home.
"Yes, we had decided that. However, the boys couldn't seem to get along," she explained to the much larger man. "I apologize that we had to disrupt your vacation, but nothing I did seemed to help. I think it is best if we separated them for the rest of the Holiday. Wouldn't you agree?" she asked, thinking the man would most definitely agree once he realized the boys had been misbehaving when in each other's company.
"So, you couldn't control him?" asked Vernon, squeezing Harry's shoulders just a little bit more. Harry fought the grimace that wanted to show on his face.
Molly frowned. "Well, not necessarily. It was just difficult to keep the two occupied without one or the other getting into an argument," she tried to explain again. "They fought over the strangest things and even broke a family heirloom. That was the last straw for me," she said, still looking very upset.
Harry did cringe then, but not in pain. He felt awful for breaking the older woman's last gift from her mother. He knew it could be fixed, but that wasn't the point. The point was that he and Ron had gotten so rowdy and uncontrollable that they had become mildly destructive. He couldn't blame her for wanting to get rid of him.
Vernon grimaced. "Just the same, I still need you to keep the boy. I can't simply break up my family's vacation because you can't control two stupid boys," he said, emphasizing his words with a small shake to Harry's now tender shoulders. Glancing up, he saw that Ron had clenched his teeth at the insult.
Molly bristled. "Excuse me?" she said heatedly, upset on both the boy's behalf's. "These boys are far from stupid," she said, "and I'm quite capable of keeping them both in line. It's the fact that having Harry at the house is a privilege for Ron that was the deciding factor. I can't have the two of them constantly at each other's throats."
The large man finally released his hold of Harry's shoulders, but Harry watched warily as he came around the bench to stand beside him now. Standing up cautiously, Harry assumed it was time to go. But, his Uncle stopped him once more by placing one beefy hand on his shoulder. Harry sighed. "This is how you keep the boy in line," he said suddenly.
Before Harry knew what was happening, his Uncle had spun him around by his sore shoulder and backhanded him across the face. Sprawling halfway onto the hard bench, Harry lay stunned and unmoving. At first there was absolute silence, and Harry wasn't sure what to expect. His Uncle had just hit him in front of the Weasley's. His friends, the people he considered more as a family than he did his actual relatives. He briefly wondered if they condoned the violence his Uncle had just struck him down with as the silence stretched on and on. Maybe they thought he deserved it after the way he had acted at the Burrow. He thought he could feel his heart breaking.
He could just imagine the smirk Vernon must have on his face as he looked at the red headed family with glee. He always did get a little too much enjoyment out of hurting Harry. The silence seemed to last an eternity to Harry, but in reality it had only been less than a minute. After that, the silence was broken.
"You bloody bastard!"
Harry was shocked. That was Ron. He thought if any of them would have been less than upset at what his Uncle had just done to him, it would be Ron. They had been fighting like cats and dogs for the past week. But, if anything, he thought Ron sounded frighteningly pissed off.
A strong hand wound into his hair, yanking his head up violently. That was the last thing Vernon had the chance to do though, as Mrs. Weasley stunned him with a voice filled with venom. "Harry, sweetie, are you okay?" she asked, kneeling down on the concrete floor.
Shaking his head to try and clear the fog that had come over him, he got his arms beneath him and tried to lift himself off the bench he was lying on. He felt gentle hands wrap around his upper arms to help guide him and assist him into a sitting position. He kept his gaze lowered, too embarrassed to meet anyone's eyes.
It was Ron. Harry wasn't sure what to think about his best friend. Apparently he wasn't as angry at him as he'd thought. Of course, watching your friend get smashed in the face could change a person's perspective on things. He certainly wouldn't have been happy to see someone hurting Ron, no matter how mad he was at him. He could only hope that Ron would feel the same way. And apparently he did.
"Yeah?" he asked softly, eyes still lowered to the ground. He could just barely make out the shape of his Uncle's arm lying limp on the ground beneath him. He couldn't believe the man had actually struck him in public.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
Harry nodded lightly. His head was starting to feel like it would explode. "Sorry about all this," he muttered quietly. Was he still expected to go with his Uncle, he wondered. Would they really make him go still?
"Let's get you back to the Burrow, Harry. I'm sorry I even brought you here," said Molly to herself. She put one hand around the boy's back and helped him to his feet. Ron was on his other side instantly, wrapping his arm around Harry's waist in order to help. "I've got him, Mum," he said.
"Are you sure?" she asked, clearly wondering if this was such a good idea. Seeing the concern in her youngest son's eyes, however, and she knew Harry was in good hands.
"Yeah, I've got him," he told her plainly, pulling Harry closer to his side to better support his weight. It wasn't as if his friend weighed much to begin with, but this was the excuse he was going to use. Why else would he want to hold Harry so close to him? There was no other reason. There wasn't.
The journey back to the Burrow was uneventful, if not extremely quiet and awkward. Mrs. Weasley had stayed behind to deal with Harry's Uncle while insisting her children take him back home to rest. No playing around either. Harry was to go straight to bed.
It wasn't long before Ron was pushing open his bedroom door and escorting his best friend into the room and directly to the cot they had set up for him. "Slowly, now," insisted Ron, helping to ease his still unsteady body onto the bed.
Once Harry was seated, he curled up into a small ball and cushioned his head on a fluffy pillow.
"Thanks," he whispered, still feeling embarrassed about all that had happened earlier that day.
Ron shrugged. "Wasn't nothing," he said. "Sorry your Uncle smacked you," he added a moment later. Curiosity was making him start a conversation he wasn't sure Harry was ready for. But, perhaps getting him to talk would be better for his younger friend. He honestly hadn't thought the man would ever strike the green-eyed boy, but obviously, he'd been wrong.
Harry closed his eyes, trying to ignore what his best friend was trying to get him started on. He didn't want to talk about this with anyone, let alone the boy he'd been arguing with for the past week. If he actually cared, why did he wait until something bad happened to him to show it? Harry rolled over and faced the wall instead of his friend.
"I'm tired, Ron," he said evasively. He heard a sigh and then the silent footsteps as the teen trudged out of the room.
Releasing the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding in, Harry shifted slightly until he could see the door. It was closed and Ron was gone. A small part of him was beginning to wish his friend had tried harder. Not sure where that extremely odd thought was coming from, Harry rolled back over and fell asleep.
It wasn't until something cold and unpleasant feeling touched his face that Harry woke up. He jerked away from the unknown substance that was touching him and sat up in bed, looking and feeling bewildered. "What?" he mumbled, not fully awake, and began to wipe at the wetness on his face. He brought his hand back down to see what it was only to discover something clear and slightly slimy.
"It's for your face," said a male voice, causing Harry to look up. He stared incoherently at Ron's father for the space of a second before he realized why he would need a slimy substance rubbed on his face.
"Did it bruise?" he asked slowly, still waking up.
Arthur sighed and scooped up another small handful from the jar before going for Harry's face again. The boy had rubbed off what he'd just put on. "Yes, it bruised," he answered, leaning forward into Harry's personal space. "Does it hurt too badly?"
Harry shook his head and tossed his blankets off. "No," he answered, brushing the man's hand away. "It's okay. It's not that bad."
Arthur knew this was an embarrassing situation for Harry but hopefully he would feel more comfortable talking about things later.
"Where's Ron?" he asked, standing up and stretching his arms above his head.
Arthur stood up when Harry made no move to get back into bed. "He's downstairs having breakfast. Molly sent me to wake you, actually. That's when I noticed you needed something for your face," he explained, walking with the younger boy towards the stairs. "Are you hungry?"
Harry thought about it for a second. "I could eat, I guess."
When they entered the kitchen, Mrs. Weasley was instantly on her feet and pulling out a chair. "Have a seat, sweetie," she said, not waiting for him to get all the way to the table before she was bustling over to him and guiding him to his seat. "Are you hungry? Would you like some juice? We have bacon, would you like bacon?" she said it all so quickly that Harry had to watch her mouth to make sure he understood.
"Uh, bacon is fine," he answered, glancing at everyone else's plates to make sure that was what they were having too. He didn't want to cause any more trouble for the woman than he absolutely had to.
As he was reaching forward to spoon a helping of hash browns onto his plate, he felt eyes watching his every move, but before he could even start to feel annoyed, Ron tapped his shoulder to get his attention.
"Sleep well?" he asked, shoving another piece of bacon in his mouth while he waited for Harry to answer.
Harry grinned. "Yeah, I did. You?" he asked.
It wasn't beyond Harry's notice that the other boys and Ginny were watching him cautiously. They wanted to know more about what had happened the day before, and Ron was trying to keep the center of attention away from it. He let a small smile grace his face at the thought. Maybe they were finally over all of that bloody fighting.
The 'no fighting' truce with Ron lasted all of three days before they started arguing again.
"What is with you lately?" asked Harry, slamming his book closed as he got to his feet. "Can't I have a moment to myself without you coming in here acting like a prat?" he yelled, figuring if Ron was doing it, so would he. "If you're mad at me, tell me! Don't just go around acting like an arse because you can't get up the steam to tell me you're pissed! All you do is yell, and it's about stuff that doesn't make any sense!"
Harry picked up his Potion's book and made to storm out their bedroom door. He didn't get much farther than the door before it was yanked open from the other side and Ron's Mum came in, arms folded across her chest, and looking quite cross.
"That's quite enough from the both of you!" she said sternly. "Sit down right now and close your mouths. I don't want to hear another word out of either of you!" she waved her finger in either boy's direction, indicating quite sharply that she wanted them to sit down on their respective beds. "I've had it!"
Harry went where he was told as quickly as his legs would allow. He wasn't going to risk Mrs. Weasley's wrath if he could avoid it. He worried, probably unreasonably so, that Ron's parents might take his Uncle's advice to heart. But, unreasonable as it may be, he still wondered what they would do if it really came down to it. "Sorry, Mrs. Weasley," he muttered, hoping to stave off any punishment. He briefly wondered if they regretted not sending him home when they had the chance.
Molly sighed at the look on her son's best friend's face. "Boys, this has to stop," she said in a voice less harsh than she'd been using before. "I don't know what's gotten into the both of you, but it ends now," she said quietly, though she thought she did know what the problem was. Instead of backing out of a potentially awkward conversation, she sat down on the bed beside Ron.
"Mum?" he asked, wondering why she was taking the time to sit with them. She usually just yelled, grounded them or gave them some sort of horrifying chore to do, and then stormed out of the room. But, apparently the tides had changed.
"I think we need to discuss this," she answered the unasked question in her child's voice. "I believe I might know what's going on between the two of you," she said. If she was wrong, she wasn't sure how she was going to back out of it.
"We said we were sorry," started Ron, but stopped at the look his mother was shooting him.
"I believe it was Harry who said he was sorry. You just sat on your bed with that indignant look you always get when you think you're being punished for something you didn't do," she stated with raised brows. "I've known you for 16 years young man; don't think I don't know your faces by now."
Ron sulked. "This is ridiculous. There isn't anything to talk about."
"I disagree," said his mother. "There is something obviously going on."
"And what do you think it is?" asked Ron, remembering his mother's earlier words. If she thought she knew so much about them, let her bring on her philosophy on what she thought was making them both fight so often. Ron was fairly certain she would be a mile away from what was really going on.
Harry had sat quietly on his bed as mother and son discussed the problem. He figured keeping his mouth shut and staying out of the way was the best policy.
Molly paused as she thought about how to bring this up with the boys. "Well," she started uncertainly. "How do you feel about Harry?" she asked Ron suddenly, causing both Ron and Harry to look up at her in confusion.
"What kind of question is that?" he asked. "He's my friend. And, even though we've been arguing a lot lately, I don't hate him or anything."
Harry let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He had wondered for one brief moment if Ron was going to flat-out say he hated him. It wouldn't have been a surprise if he'd said it. It would have hurt like hell, but it wouldn't have surprised him. Just like it wouldn't have been the first time he'd cared about someone only to have them learn to hate him in return.
Taking a deep breath, Molly nodded her head. "Harry? What about you? How do you feel about Ron?"
Harry nibbled on his bottom lip as he pretended to ponder the question. Ron sighed irritably but with a slightly alarmed look on his face. Harry decided he'd better stop playing. "He's my best friend," he said as he watched Mrs. Weasley's face. "I don't know why we're always arguing though. I don't like to," he added as he fiddled with the blankets he was sitting upon. "We didn't use to argue so much."
Ron shifted uncomfortably on the bed beside his mother. "Yeah, I know," he said, watching Harry's face carefully.
It suddenly struck Molly that Ron knew what he was feeling towards Harry was more than just friendship, but that Harry was completely oblivious to it all. This made things a bit more complicated. She had assumed both boys were hiding behind the face of anger to disguise their true feelings. Obviously, it was just Ron using this defense while Harry went on in confusion.
"Harry, would you mind if I spoke with Ron alone for a moment?" she asked.
Harry looked up curiously. "We're done talking?" he asked.
"Well, for the moment. But, I will want to speak with you later on," she said and added quickly at Harry's concerned face. "You're not in trouble. I just need to speak with Ron alone."
Nodding carefully, Harry got up off his bed and left the room, all the while wondering what the woman needed to speak to Ron about that she couldn't say in front of Harry.
"Why'd you send out Harry?"
Molly took in a deep breath. She never thought she would be having this type of conversation with her son. It didn't bother her, not in the least. So long as her children were happy, she was happy with their choices.
Instead of keeping on with sets of questions Molly decided to jump right in. "Ron, I know how you feel about Harry," she started.
Ron sighed. "Of course you do. I just told you how I feel about him," he said, exasperated.
Making sure her irritation wasn't showing, Molly turned fully towards her youngest son. "No, sweetie, I mean I know how you feel about him," she emphasized her wording, hoping Ron would catch on.
He did. It wasn't a rare occurrence to see her children turn red, it happened quite frequently in fact. But, she'd never seen any of them as red as Ron was right at that moment.
"Mum, it's not like that," he started quickly. "I mean…well…it is…but, he doesn't know! And I'm not sure that I know, either. I mean, I'm fairly sure I like him more than just a friend, but it's all so confusing. He's my best friend! It shouldn't be like this…" he trailed off, realizing he'd just spilled his deepest and darkest secret to his mother of all people.
"Uh, Mum?" he questioned apprehensively. "I know you don't approve of this type of thing," he started, but never got a chance to finish.
"I don't disapprove, Ron. I think it's wonderful that you feel that way about him."
Ron sat staring at his mother in disbelief. "Are you serious?"
"You're not mad that I like another boy? That I like Harry? Harry is a boy," he pointed out. "A boy…not a girl."
"Yes, Harry is a boy," said Molly, a small grin showing on her face. "I do understand the difference."
Ron blushed. "Yeah…" he trailed off. "You're sure you're okay with this? I mean, what about Dad? Will he be okay with this?"
"I can't speak for your father, Ron, but I'm pretty sure he'll be okay with it, too," she told him, "You're father is fairly open with this type of thing. He has co-workers of the same orientation that you're discovering you are," she explained. "And he gets along with them just fine."
"But they're his co-workers Mum, not his son!"
Molly gently took Ron's face into her hands and kissed his forehead. "He'll love you no matter who you want to be with, sweetie."
Ron didn't say anything, but Molly could feel him relax a bit more. This must have really been eating at him. She wondered how long her son had kept this to himself, facing the fact that he not only liked his best friend, but that said best friend was a boy, and knowing his parents may or may not approve of it. No wonder he'd kept picking fights. Although, going after Harry probably wasn't the best notion the boy had ever had.
"Why did you keep fighting with Harry?" she asked, wanting to confirm her own thoughts on the matter.
Ron sighed deeply and let out a slow breath. "I'm not sure," he started uncertainly. "It was just so weird. I knew I liked him more than I really should have, and it seemed like it kept happening at the stupidest moments."
"Moments?" she asked.
"Yeah, like the time I found myself letting him win a game of chess just so I could see him smile. It was right after he got here and we were playing chess. After I let him win, I realized what I was doing and to play it off, I accused him of cheating. I didn't want him to know I'd let him win on purpose. It was stupid, I know, but it was the only thing I could think of. We've been fighting ever since. Any time I think he might get suspicious of me, I turn it into a fight."
It was all finally making sense. Molly realized what her son had been doing, but also knew he was hurting both himself and Harry in the process. But she could understand how he might want to try hiding the truth from not only Harry, but his family.
"So, is this the reason you fought the most with him when he wrote back to Seamus?" she asked, suddenly remembering those fights seemed to be the worse.
Ron turned a very dark shade of red. "It made me so jealous!" he said suddenly. "And it still does. Even thinking about him writing back to Finnegan makes me fume! I know he likes Harry, the little prat!" he said, his ire rising.
"Ronald Weasley!" she said, trying to calm the fire before it got out of control. "That is quite enough!"
He huffed, but finally managed to calm himself back down to a normal level. He couldn't believe how jealous he got over the Irish boy.
"Now," she started calmly, "Are you sure Seamus likes Harry, or are they just friends writing to each other?" she asked.
"No! I've heard him talking to the guys about it before. He wants Harry! And I know it's only for one thing," he said darkly.
Molly couldn't believe she was having this conversation. "Ron, you simply must calm down. Does Harry return these feelings for Seamus?"
Ron shook his head. "No, definitely not. Harry doesn't even know Finnegan likes him."
"Does he know you like him?" she asked.
Molly was beginning to think Ron would never turn a normal shade of color again. With the rate they were going, he would stay perpetually red.
"I don't think so," he said cautiously. "I don't think Harry thinks anyone would find him attractive. He really gets down on himself most of the time," he said softly.
Mrs. Weasley nodded her head. She knew Harry had lots of self-esteem issues. She also understood where that problem stemmed from. His relatives constantly degraded him and put him down. The boy didn't think he was worth anything at all. She silently fumed at the boy's relatives for ever treating him so callously.
"Do you know if Harry is attracted to girls? Or is he attracted to boys? When you tell Harry how you feel about it, it might be easier on you if you know how he might potentially feel about what you're telling him." Molly honestly wasn't sure if Harry was into boys or girls. The lad never spoke about anyone he liked, at least not in her presence. For all she knew, Harry was interested in some girl at school and Ron was barking up the wrong tree.
"I'm not sure, actually," said Ron, and he blushed an even deeper shade of red. "In the past he'd talked of liking a girl named Cho Chang, but I'm not sure how he feels about her now. She ended up going with Cedric to the ball last year, so I was hopeful he would forget about her…" he trailed off, embarrassed. "I just don't know."
Molly placed a comforting hand on her son's shoulder. "Sweetie, if that's the case, you might have to face that fact that Harry might not be as interested in you as you are in him," she said as gently as she could, but felt horrible when she saw Ron's face fall.
"I know. I've known it, at least. This is another reason I've been fighting with him all the time. I was worried if he found out how I really felt about him that he'd stop being friends with me. I can't lose him, Mum, even if I can only keep him as a friend. I'd miss him too much."
"You still need to tell him, dear. If you don't, you're going to lose him anyway. The constant provocations and fighting will eventually push him away. You realize this, don't you?" she asked.
Ron suddenly stood and began pacing the bedroom floor. "I can't tell him, Mum. He'd run away."
"And what do you think will happen if you continue with these lies? He thinks you don't like him, Ron. You'll only hurt him more if you don't tell him the truth."
"I don't want to hurt him!" insisted Ron, rubbing his hands together nervously. "But I don't know how to tell him, either!" he sighed. "What if he doesn't want to be my friend anymore?"
"If he stops being your friend over this, then he wasn't a very good friend to begin with. And you and I both know Harry won't stop your friendship over this. He might need some time and space to deal with it, but he won't disregard you," she said knowingly. Harry was nothing but a descent and loyal person, almost to a fault. He wouldn't turn his back on Ron no matter what.
Nodding his head, Ron sat back down on the bed with his mother. "I have to tell him."
Molly ruffled her son's hair before running her hand down to cup his cheek. "It will be fine. And remember that no matter what happens, I'm behind you all the way."
Mrs. Weasley entered the kitchen to find Harry and the twins sitting at the table in the middle of a game of Exploding Snap. Harry didn't seem to be particularly paying close attention to the game and, based on the looks from Fred and George, had been losing quite spectacularly.
"Harry?" she asked once he looked up and noticed her standing in the doorway.
"Do I have to go back to the Dursley's now?" he asked, his voice sullen.
Molly sucked in a surprised gasp and noticed the twins were looking equally disheartened.
"Heavens, no!" she exclaimed. Harry jumped at her raised tone and Molly eased her voice down immediately. "You won't be returning to your relatives, Harry. Not this summer, and if Arthur and I have anything to say about it, not for the next summer either. By that point, you'll be old enough to make your own decisions on where you live," she stated rather emphatically.
Harry eyes widened. "Are you serious? I don't ever have to go back if I don't want to?"
"We'll make it so you never have to return, Harry, mark my words," she said sadly. "Had we known how he truly treated you, we never would have allowed you to stay. We just didn't know."
At a look from their mother, Fred and George surreptitiously stood up and left the kitchen without Harry even noticing they'd gone.
"Has he always treated you so…harshly?" she asked cautiously. They'd been avoiding the subject with the boy, trying to wait for a time when he was ready to talk about it. Perhaps now was that time.
Harry shrugged, glancing towards the table and just now realizing that the twins were gone. "Just sometimes," he answered, almost feeling obligated to tell her now that she and Arthur were going to all the trouble of making sure he never returned to his relatives.
"Sometimes?" she persuaded.
"It wasn't an everyday occurrence or anything," he started, "but it happened often enough that I could tell when to steer clear of my Uncle."
Molly grimaced and walked towards the counter. Fetching two mugs out of the cupboard, she filled them with hot tea before placing one in front of Harry and then taking the seat across from him. She stirred the liquid within her mug as she listened to Harry's tale.
"How long has this been going on?" she asked, once he told her there had only been slaps and punches at the worst of times and the occasional pulled hair when he wasn't flaming mad.
"I don't know…" he trailed off, obviously not wanting to tell her something.
She could tell the boy was hedging and figured whatever he had to say was something she wasn't going to like. Not that she'd enjoyed what she'd heard so far, it was the exact opposite in fact.
"How early?" she asked again, knowing she'd left a little too much edge in her voice when he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Please, Harry, I just want to help you."
The silence stretched for what seemed like an eternity and Molly had just begun to think the boy wasn't going to answer her at all when he picked up his mug and took a deep swallow. She grimaced at how it must have burnt going down his throat, but he didn't seem to even notice.
"The first time I remember it happening was when I was three. I could have been a little younger, but for some reason it's always stood out in my memory. Dudley had left out some crayons and a coloring book on the coffee table in the living room. I'd never been allowed to have a coloring book, let alone a box of crayons, and my three-year-old curiosity must have gotten the best of me.
"I remember coloring very carefully in the book when Dudley came back into the room. He screamed and screamed at me and my Uncle came into the room and yanked me up by the arms. He took me into the hallway and smacked me until I was dizzy before shoving me in the cupboard under the stairs. I don't remember how long I had to stay in there before I was allowed out, but at the time it seemed like forever," he said, his hands wrapping around his cup to keep them warm. He felt chilled to the bone, but he doubted it was from being cold.
Molly reached across the table and took Harry's hands in hers, squeezing them lightly. "I'm sorry you had to go through all of that, Harry. It shouldn't have been allowed, but it was. But you don't have to worry about it anymore, dear. Arthur and I will make sure you never go back. Even if you have to stay with us, child, we'll never let you go back. I'm sorry you had to put up with it for as long as you did. No child should be put through that."
Harry shrugged, a bit uncomfortable with the way she was looking at him, but couldn't really help the sudden warmth that was spreading through his chest at the way she was trying to protect him.
"You don't have to keep me here, Mrs. Weasley. I wouldn't impose on you and your family. I appreciate you offering, but you don't have to. Especially with the way Ron and I have been fighting so much lately. I'm sure things will turn around eventually, but I doubt you'd want me here if we're constantly fighting," he said morosely, wishing that he could stay, but knowing he would be too much of a burden if he did.
"You're right, I don't have to keep you," Harry felt his face flame. He'd been right. "I want to keep you here. You're just as important to me as any of the children living in this house and I won't have you staying with that monster who calls himself your Uncle. I simply won't have it. Do you understand me?" she asked, her voice going stern all of a sudden.
The pain that had started to course through Harry's chest when Mrs. Weasley had first started speaking slowly started to ebb away only to be replaced with the warmth he'd felt earlier. It was nice to feel wanted.
"Now, I think Ron needs to talk to you," she said, making Harry's brow furrow.
"Oh…" he paused, clearly confused. "Aren't you going to punish me for fighting with Ron again?" he asked, unsure of what had transpired up in his best friend's room after he had left. He'd simply assumed there was a punishment in the making.
Molly sighed and shook her head. She really couldn't punish the boy, especially since he was an unwilling participant in the constant arguing. He'd merely fought back because he'd been pushed. "No, you're not in trouble. I'd like the fighting to stop, don't misunderstand me, but you're teenagers. The occasional fight is going to happen and we're just going to have to figure it out as it goes."
"Occasional?" mouthed Harry, clearly thinking there had been quite a bit more fights than the occasional one she had just mentioned. Molly didn't say anything though, knowing he still had no clue what was going on.
"Go on now, Ron is waiting."
Harry nodded, quickly finished the last swallow of his tea, and placed the mug on the counter before rushing upstairs. She watched him climbing the stairs with an uncertain gait and wished to all that was good in the world that he and Ron could figure out whatever was between them.
His knuckles rapped softly against the door, and Harry had half an expectation of Ron not even opening the door for him. He was a little surprised when it opened a moment later and Ron stood uncertainly on the other side. "Hi," he said, and all Harry could do was stare at him.
He waved one hand in greeting, as if they hadn't been living with each other for the past few weeks. "Your Mum said you wanted to talk with me?" he questioned as he walked in the door and took a seat on his cot.
"Yeah, yeah…I wanted to talk to you," he replied before mimicking Harry and sitting on his own bed across from the younger teen. "We need to talk."
Harry nodded. "I know," he answered with a touch of amusement in his voice. "But, what about?"
Ron began rubbing his hands together, a sign that showed Harry just how nervous his best friend was. "Are you okay?" he asked softly.
The question caused the redhead to bring his eyes up in a startled fashion. "What?" then he noticed what he was doing and quickly trapped his hands underneath his thighs. "Yeah, fine, I'm fine."
Harry was beginning to get a little worried at the way Ron was acting. "Just tell me Ron. Are you okay? You're not acting right at all." He watched as Ron took in a very deep breath before slowly letting it out.
"I've got something I need to tell you and I'm not sure how you're going to react," he started, causing Harry to tense up.
"What is it then?"
Ron took another deep breath and bulled forward. "I…you…this is really difficult," he tripped over the words that tried to come out of his mouth. "I like you," he said so quickly he wasn't sure Harry caught what he said.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I know that. I like you too, remember, we're best friends," he confirmed, his forehead scrunching up in confusion. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Ron had to stop himself from venting out his frustration. Harry had misunderstood what he'd meant and he wasn't sure if he could get himself to just spit it out. "I like you more than that, Harry. More than best friends."
Brushing a hand through his dark hair, the younger of the two watched on in lingering bewilderment as Ron tried to sort out what he was trying to say. "More than best friends?" he asked, his eyes growing large as he started to figure it out. "What do you mean more than best friends?"
"Harry, I like you more…like more than when I thought I liked Hermione. That's how I like you more. Do you get it?" But Ron could tell that Harry didn't really understand. He could see it in his eyes. Harry was starting to understand, but he could tell the boy thought he must be coming to the wrong conclusions.
"More than Hermione?" he asked softly.
"Yeah, more than Hermione. You know how I felt about Hermione, right? Well, it wasn't really Hermione that I liked; it was just the idea of having a girlfriend. Everyone else was interested in someone, and I felt like I had to be too. But, I was never really attracted to her. I was attracted to you."
Harry stood up suddenly and roughly pulled his hair through his hands. "What?" he asked, his voice a little too high pitched, a little too panicked for Ron's liking. It was happening, the thing he'd feared most of all. Harry wasn't taking it well. Not well at all. He was going to hate him now.
He watched as his best friend got up and paced the room, his movements showing he had been thrown completely off balanced by his announcement. Then he stopped and turned back towards Ron, his stance completely rigid.
"I…I'm not sure how I feel about this Ron. I just don't know what to think. I can't say it back to you, what you just told me. I just…I don't know," he said and suddenly rushed from the room.
Ron watched in shock as the door slowly swung shut behind him. He'd blown it for good. Harry hated his guts, probably thought he was disgusting. He knew he should have remembered his Mum's advice to give Harry time after he'd just given Harry the news, but all he could think about was the look on his best mate's face when he'd fled the room. Harry didn't like him the way he liked Harry.
Harry ran out of the house and straight into the woods, not stopping until he was completely out of breath and absolutely had to stop. He leaned tiredly against a large oak tree and stared out into the forest surrounding him. His mind kept spinning around the words that Ron had told him. I was never really attracted to her. I was attracted to you.
This was almost beyond his capacity to understand. Never in all of his wildest dreams had he ever even imagined that Ron liked him in that way, let alone that he liked Ron. It was just such a shock to hear and even more that it was his best friend. But, the more he thought about it the more he was surprised to find that he wasn't disgusted by it. It was shocking, no doubt about that, but he had always been taught by his relatives that that sort of relationship was disgusting and of the devil.
But he wasn't sickened of Ron, in fact, he was a little curious. He let himself slide down to the base of the tree and sat down on the cooling grass. With his back firmly against the rough wood, he pondered the revelation that was coming over him. Did he like Ron the way Ron obviously liked him? It was a definite possibility. He knew he liked Ron more than he'd ever liked Cho, but was that because of friendship or something else? He thought about what it would be like to actually kiss his best friend and felt a shiver rush up his spine.
So, maybe it was possible he did like Ron. He dropped his head into his hands and closed his eyes. He didn't know what he felt, but he was beginning to worry about how his sudden departure could have affected Ron. What if he thought he hated him now? He stood up shakily and started back for the house. He wasn't sure what he was really feeling, but knew he couldn't leave Ron with any doubt about their friendship if nothing else.
When Harry got back to the house he found himself wavering at the front door. Should he go in and face his best friend, or should he wait and leave things until the morning? The mere idea of talking to Ron after the conversation they had just had left him feeling weak in the pit of his stomach. It was a rather odd sensation.
But, he knew that had their situations been reversed, he would have been devastated at his seeming rejection. So, he braced himself and pulled open the door. The kitchen was empty but he noticed now that Mrs. Weasley's mug rested on the counter beside his own. He briefly wondered where the woman was and could only assume she was upstairs with her son.
This made him worry that she might be mad at him. Angry that he had run out on her son and left him heartbroken, or worse, she thought the both of them were disgusting for even contemplating this kind of relationship. He wasn't sure how the Weasley's thought about this sort of thing, but if his own relatives were any indication, it couldn't be good. His resolve was steadily sinking and he wondered if he should even go upstairs at all.
Any and all thoughts bordering on hysteria were disregarded as he saw Mrs. Weasley coming down the steps and into the kitchen.
"Harry," she said it extremely cautiously, as if he were a startled animal on the verge of running away from a vicious attack.
"Yeah?" he asked uncertainly.
"Are you all right? Ron told me that you were upset."
Harry nodded his head, his movements coming automatically with no real thought behind them.
"Are you certain you're all right Harry? You don't act it," she continued, and Harry found himself just staring at her. He didn't know where his head had disappeared to, but he wished it would come back.
"Ron told you?" she asked.
Harry looked at her in shock. "Huh?"
She gave a small grin, grasped his shoulders, and gave him a small shake. "Snap out of it, dear."
Harry took in a startled breath and then let it out again very slowly. "Ron told me," he repeated her earlier words with a small sigh.
"And how do you feel about it?" she asked, wondering if she should be pressing the issue or just let the boy go upstairs to bed.
He stood in the middle of the kitchen floor and wondered that himself. Again. "I'm not sure," he said quickly before glancing up at Molly with a slightly frightened look on his face. "How do you feel about it?"
Molly couldn't help it, she laughed. All the fear vanished from his face as he watched her in consternation. "What?" he asked.
"You look as if I'm about a step away from turning into a three headed frog or something, Harry. You shouldn't worry so much. I'm fine with it, and even if I weren't, you shouldn't let what other people think get in your way. If you feel the same way, don't be frightened of it. If you don't, then just tell Ron and go in your own directions. He'll still be your friend no matter what. Just as I'll still care about you no matter what you decide as well."
Harry allowed a small smile to grace his face before he suddenly threw his arms around the woman's waist and hugged for all he was worth. "Thank you," he whispered, before rushing out of the room and up the stairs.
Once more, she watched on as the small teen made his way up the stairs. She hoped the boy would eventually get over the fear that had been ingrained into him by his relatives all this time. They had done so much damage to him, something she had witnessed just now in this room when he'd thought she would banish him from their lives. She had seen it in his eyes. The fear of abandonment. With the help of her husband and family, she planned on making that fear disappear forever.
Harry stood outside Ron's bedroom door much like he had stood outside the front door only moments ago, wavering in his determination to go through it. Once again, the option was taken out of his hands as the door suddenly swung open and there stood Ron before him. He looked downtrodden and lost and Harry felt his heart suddenly pick up speed in his chest.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled out as quickly as possible, feeling like he needed to get it said before he lost his nerve.
"For what?" asked Ron, his own voice sounding dull.
"For running out like that," answered Harry. "I shouldn't have. I should have stayed and talked this through with you, but I was too confused," he said softly. "Still am, actually."
Ron nodded. "I can see that," he answered just as softly.
"Can we sit down and talk?" Harry wasn't really waiting for an answer and made his way back to his bed. When Ron sat across from him, he started asking questions. "Why me?" he couldn't believe the question had come from his mouth, but he was curious nonetheless. "Out of all the guys in Hogwarts, why on earth would you pick me?"
Ron just stared at the other boy with a look Harry couldn't quite put his finger on. "Because you're Harry, that's why. You're strong, honest, brave, incredibly brave," he whispered, "and you're quite possibly the most gorgeous creature I have ever set eyes on," he said quickly for fear he wouldn't be able to get it out otherwise.
Harry's eyes widened remarkably at these words, shock and disbelief clear on his face. He couldn't stop his head from shaking in denial of what Ron had just said. It wasn't true, and he couldn't understand why he would even think that about him. He knew he wasn't good looking, why lie about it?
"You are, Harry. I know you don't think so, but I do. And I'm not the only one," he muttered under his breath, but Harry wasn't sure what that meant.
"You're my best mate. You're the only one I think about. You mean more to me than anyone else ever has," he said softly. "But if you don't feel the same way about me, I'll understand. I don't want to lose our friendship over this, Harry. Please tell me you don't hate me."
"I don't hate you," he said without hesitation. "You're my best mate, too. I'm just not…sure about this," he tried to explain, pointing a bit wildly with his hand at the both of them.
"Well, I don't expect you to jump into a relationship with me right away or anything," he muttered self-consciously. "I wasn't even sure you would even feel the same way. I'm walking blind into this whole thing, just like you, but at least I know how I feel."
Harry could only stare. "I'm sorry Ron, I'm just not sure. I mean, I care about you, but I don't know if it's just as best friends or as something more," he stopped suddenly; seemingly unsure of what he wanted to say. Ron wished his friend wasn't so flustered that he was tripping all over his words. "I'm not used to this type of thing!" he finally blurted out.
Ron understood. It had been a long time before Harry had even experienced what caring was all about, not since he'd been a toddler at least. He didn't know how to distinguish one from the other. Knowing and experiencing caring and love was still a new sensation to the boy and Ron didn't want to scare him off before he'd really had a chance to show Harry how he truly felt.
Ron instinctively stepped forward to give Harry a hug, but the smaller of the two backed away and raised his hands. "Please, don't push me," he whispered and rubbed his hands up and down his arms as if he didn't know what to do with them.
Shocked, Ron stood completely still. "I was only going to give you a hug," he said quietly, beginning to realize Harry might not reciprocate his feelings. His pain must have shown on his face because Harry looked utterly horrified by what he had said.
"I'm sorry, I just thought…" he trailed off. It was obvious between the two of them exactly what he had thought.
"What, that I'd force myself on you?" he asked, the sarcasm evident in his voice.
Harry balked. "You know I wouldn't think that of you!" he yelled, irritation coming through in his own voice.
Ron took a deep breath. He knew he was falling back on the old standby. If Harry started to figure it out, fight with him. It wasn't working this time though because Harry already knew.
"Do you feel anything for me?" asked Ron so suddenly that Harry had to pause a moment to catch up with the conversation. One second they were in the beginning stages of an argument and the next second Ron was asking him how he felt about the red-head.
"I…" he faltered.
"You don't, do you?" Ron seemed like he'd already figured it all out but Harry was still as confused about it all as he'd been in the beginning.
"How the hell should I know? You've given me what…five minutes to decide? Give me a break, Ron! I'm still trying to figure this out!"
Ron took a slightly unsteady step forward and came precariously into Harry's personal space. "Can I try something then?" he asked cautiously.
"Try what?" asked Harry, his face a mask of disbelief with a shadow of rebellion waiting to come forward. He thought he might know what Ron was going to do and he wasn't sure if he was going to allow it or not.
"This," he whispered, and leaned forward. He gently wrapped his arms around Harry's waist and pulled the smaller teen against him before brushing his lips against Harry's.
Harry hesitated at first. It was extremely strange having his best friend's lips pressing against his own. But, as Ron pulled him closer he found himself leaning his weight against him and relaxing into the kiss. It was slow and gentle and couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds, but it was the nicest feeling Harry had ever experienced. He blinked his eyes open, having never even realized he'd closed them, and stared up into Ron's eyes. "How was that?" asked Ron.
Harry smiled shyly. "It was nice," he whispered. Ron's smile completely lit up his face and Harry returned it with a small smile of his own. As he stared up at Ron he realized this probably meant he felt the same way about Ron as Ron felt about him. He smiled again. Apparently they were going to start figuring this thing out together.