Author's Note: The Timestamp Meme was pretty simple: give me any one of my fics and a timestamp, and I'll write you at least 100 words. Problem: I babble. Cutecoati asked for "Confession Is Good For the Soul + two years" and ... yeah. It grew.
Ron approached the St. Mungo's help desk. "I'm here to see Harry Potter," he said briskly, and was met by a startled stare and quick blush.
"Erm. I'm afraid we don't have a patient by that name here," the Welcome Witch said, and Ron gave her a fairly low-level Auror glare.
"Look, I'm a friend of his. I was told he was here-"
"Sir, we don't have authorization," she began, and Ron rolled his eyes.
"Here's my badge, I already know he's here-"
"Auror, ah, Weasley," she said, glancing at his identification. "Please-"
"It's all right, let him in," said a voice behind Ron, and Ron tensed automatically and barely stopped himself from pulling his wand as he turned.
Ron blew out his breath. Figured. Hadn't seen Harry in three years, and the first time he came to see him, the only way to do so was through Malfoy, sod him.
"Are you sure, Healer?" the Welcome Witch said, and Ron was puzzled for a moment before he realized she was probably addressing Malfoy. Malfoy nodded, his expression blank as he met Ron's stare.
"Thanks... Malfoy," Ron said tightly. "I heard you work with him now. I suppose you're here treating him?"
Malfoy gave him an odd look. "No, of course not. Come on, I'll take you upstairs."
"How is he?" Ron said as they entered the lift.
"He'll be perfectly all right in another three or four days," Malfoy said. "He's just in a bit of pain and discomfort right now. Nothing to worry about."
"Ginny told me he'd been poisoned."
"Technically he overdosed, but close enough. Bad batch of Ferritin Potion. The idiot apothecary made it five times as potent as it should've been. We called the local Aurors on her; the woman's a menace."
"How did he overdose?"
"He was about to give the potion to a patient with anemia but he noticed something was off about it. Poured a bit into a cup and sniffed it and nearly passed out." Malfoy shook his head grimly. "Maybe he'll finally learn to test bad potions with his wand instead of his senses."
"He didn't do it on purpose!" Ron bristled.
"Obviously not," Malfoy said impatiently. "And we're damned lucky he noticed something was off because the potion would've killed the patient. Still, he ought to know better. Bloody typical mediwizard; careful with everybody's health but his own."
"Oh." Ron suppressed a sigh of relief as the lift doors opened on the third floor and Malfoy led them out. Not that Malfoy was being unpleasant at all, but it was disconcerting to be so calmly discussing Harry's health with a man he'd only ever interacted with in hostile terms, except for three extremely brief business-only contacts during the war.
"Here we are," Malfoy said, pushing open a door to reveal a small waiting area leading to five patient rooms. Ron smiled as his sister looked up from the book she was reading and closed it, standing up.
"Ron, finally," she said as he approached her chair and she hugged him. Malfoy made his way to a chair with a small desk before it and settled himself into it, taking out a long scroll. Ron noted blankets, three empty mugs, the remains of some toast, and various scrolls piled next to the chair.
"How are you?" he hugged Ginny back, murmuring into her hair. "Is he all right? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, yeah, and Harry'll be fine," Ginny said and grinned reassuringly as she pulled back. "It was touch and go for a bit, but he's all right. He's only allowed one visitor at a time right now though, so the rest of us wait out here."
"Is Malfoy working here now? Thought he was still in Shetland."
"Why's he here, then?"
"To be with Harry," Ginny said, a bit puzzled. Ron frowned - and then his own curiosity was forgotten as the door to Harry's room opened and the person he least wanted to see came out, stopping short as she caught sight of him.
There was a heavy, frozen silence.
Ron felt Ginny give a small sigh next to him. "How is he doing?" she asked his ex-wife.
"He said he's getting disoriented, seeing too many colours. Actually, he said he can almost hear them. Is that normal?" she asked Malfoy, apparently deciding to ignore Ron.
"Not really, but then when has Harry ever been normal?" Malfoy said, and Hermione and Ginny smiled. "Hypersensitivity to colours is an unusual reaction to the potions he's on right now, but it's not dangerous. Just charm your clothes beige when you go into his room. And your hair'll probably make him cry right now," he said to Ginny. Ron almost felt insulted when she laughed.
"I suppose you think I shouldn't go in either, then?" Ron said a bit snidely, and didn't miss the way Ginny and Hermione both tensed again.
"Suit yourself," Malfoy said neutrally.
"We learn colour charms in Auror training, you know."
"Good for you."
Ron pressed his lips together. "Right, then. I'll go in next." He turned to the door, only to be stopped by a person in Healer's robes coming out of Harry's room. She frowned as she took in his Auror's robes.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Evans isn't to be disturbed, he's already given his statement-"
"It's all right, he's here as a friend," Ginny said.
The Healer nodded. "Oh all right, then. You'll have to give him a few minutes though, we're doing some examinations." She hurried off.
"Evans?" Ron frowned at Ginny.
"Harry uses an alias when he's in England," Malfoy said.
"Thank you," Ron said, rather politely, he thought. "I knew that. I just didn't think he'd use one at the hospital."
"He uses it everywhere but Shetland."
There was a brief silence.
"So... how long has he been here?" he asked Ginny.
"Why didn't you owl me earlier?"
"Draco only contacted me yesterday," Ginny said, frowning. "And I sent you an owl last night."
Ron frowned back at her. "I was on a stake-out. Came back home and found your owl - it sounded like he was practically at death's door."
"It - he wasn't, but we were rather worried-"
"And you didn't think to try harder to reach me?"
His ex made a sound halfway between disgust and impatience, which did nothing to soothe Ron's temper. Ginny pursed her lips, rather obviously counting to ten before answering.
"I knew you were on an important case. I didn't think you'd appreciate-"
"I would've got here earlier," he interrupted her. "I don't much appreciate being contacted after everything's all done."
Ginny narrowed her eyes. "I'll remember that for next time, then," she said.
There was another uncomfortable silence, broken, oddly enough, by Malfoy. "Erm, so did you give him an earful over proper potion testing procedure?" he asked Hermione.
Hermione smiled. "Of course. I'm not sure whether the colour complaint was real or just his way of cutting short my lecture." Ginny and Malfoy chuckled as Ron pressed his lips together and looked away. Of course they could laugh, not having much firsthand appreciation of the delights of Hermione Granger's lectures. Harry wouldn't have laughed.
Scratch that, Ron corrected himself bitterly. He probably would have.
"Well I'll have to thank you, if it works," Malfoy said. "He doesn't listen to me worth a damn."
"You could pull rank on him now that your training is done, couldn't you?"
"If I don't mind being hexed in my sleep," he said dryly, and Hermione and Ginny chuckled.
Another silence. "Erm, has Mum been in?" Ron asked Ginny.
"Of course," Ginny said. "She was here this morning, before going to Fred's to babysit."
"Oh, how are Fred's twins?" Hermione asked. "I haven't seen them in ages."
"Jacob's a dear, but Billy's a holy terror, I swear. Fred can't stop apologizing to Mum every time he sees her. Says he doesn't know how he and George got past age two without Mum and Dad drowning them both."
Hermione laughed and Ron crossed his arms and looked away, fighting down irritation. This was so bloody typical; even after their divorce, after everything he and his ex had said and done to each other, the Weasleys still treated her like part of the family. His bloody family.
He should've known she'd be here. And he should've known that Ginny would act like everything was just fine, wouldn't think to show Ron any kind of support, would band together with Hermione to not-so-subtly let Ron know what they thought of him getting to Harry's side rather late, never mind that she hadn't bothered to make a real effort to reach him.
And Malfoy was here too, also on their side. How nice.
This had been a mistake. Harry was fine, certainly didn't need him, and Ron didn't need to be around his ex-wife or his school nemesis, neither of whom looked likely to clear off anytime soon.
The brief conversation about Fred's twins had petered off and the silence was once more growing awkward, and Ron had enough. "Well." He cleared his throat. "Tell Harry I came by, would you, Gin?"
"Tell him yourself," Ginny said. "He'd like to see you, Ron."
"Did he say so?"
"Didn't think so. Well, it looks like he's got all the... visitors he wants. Certainly doesn't need me around to add to the crowd." Hm. That last bit had come out a bit more bitter than he'd meant it to. Oh well.
"Of course," Hermione muttered, and exchanged a look with Malfoy, who shook his head slightly. Of all people, Draco Malfoy, exchanging a look of shared annoyance with the woman he'd once called a Mudblood - the woman for whom Ron had accidentally hexed himself to defend against Malfoy, as a matter of fact - and Ron felt the hostility in the room battering him. Well, the hell with them all, then. He turned on his heel and pushed the door of the little room open.
"Ron, you're a real prat," Ginny said softly.
"What?" he said defensively.
"He'd like to see you."
"Oh, really. Could've fooled me."
"Though God knows why," Malfoy muttered.
"All right, what the hell is your problem, Malfoy?" Ron snapped. "And since when do you know anything about what Harry wants? For that matter, since when is he even 'Harry' to you?"
Hermione bit her lip and choked back a laugh, as Malfoy smirked at her, like they were sharing a joke. At his expense.
"God, Ron, just when I think you can't possibly put your foot in it any deeper, you go and prove me wrong," Ginny said sadly.
"I think she may be trying to tell you Harry and I have been involved for about two years, Weasley," said Malfoy.
There was a profound silence, as Ron waited for his brain to fully process the words and for his sister and his ex to deny what Malfoy had just said.
"What?" he finally said weakly, when neither of them looked likely to do any such thing.
"Two years, I said. We live together. I'm listed as his next of kin on the patient record."
Ron glanced at Ginny, who shrugged. He swallowed hard. "Harry... never said anything," he said slowly.
"You never bloody well asked," Ginny shot back. "We both knew."
"Right," he said grimly. "Of course." And why not. "Well, that's lovely. I'll be going now." He pushed the door open into the hall.
"Not a moment too soon," Malfoy muttered as the door closed behind Ron. "I certainly hope it was something I said." And to add insult to injury, Ron heard the unmistakable sound of his ex's uncharacteristic giggle.
Harry? And the ferret? And Harry hadn't said a bloody word about it - to Ron, anyway - but of course Ron's little sister and Ron's ex-wife were privy to this marvelous new development in Harry's life?
The hell with him, then.
Ron strode down the hall and punched the lift button, his numbness giving way to anger as he waited impatiently for the bloody thing to arrive.
Finally. He stepped in and reached for the ground floor button, but automatically put a hand out to stop the doors from closing instead as someone called out "Hold!" Too late, he identified the voice.
"Oh good, I caught you." Malfoy hurried into the lift, his expression of distaste completely at odds with his words. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to follow you back to whatever charming hovel you inhabit these days." He abruptly stopped himself and cleared his throat. "Erm." Briefly, he looked a bit uncomfortable. "Listen, erm, Weasley-"
"What do you want?" Ron crossed his arms belligerently, staring at Malfoy and quite gratified when Malfoy dropped his gaze.
"Weasley... go see him."
"Ginny's right. He'd like to see you."
"Good for him. He doesn't seem to be lacking people to visit him. You all seem to be having a marvelous cosy time bonding together around his bedside."
"He'd like it if you were there too. Look, god knows I can't explain it, but he cares about you. And he misses you."
"He's got plenty of-"
"It was one of the first personal things he ever said to me," Malfoy spoke over him. "That he missed you, and that you'd stopped talking to him."
Ron sucked in his breath, stung. "I-"
"Look, you git, it's not like it was his fault he was more famous. And in any case, he's not, not any more. Besides, we're not kids any more."
Ron turned away.
"It's not like you're still just the sixth son of a poor family and he's still outshining you as the Boy Who Lived. He's - he's just Mediwizard Evans, from Muckle Row, Shetland-"
"Like you'd know anything about being 'outshined', you prat-"
"I'm not the Malfoy heir any more either. I'm just a country Healer. We're not kids any more, Weasley," Malfoy repeated. "Get over yourself."
Ron glared at him.
"Look, I know a lot of unpleasant stuff happened among all of you, but... Merlin, let go of the past, already. Not even your ex-wife deserves to have you holding it over her forever, and Harry certainly doesn't."
"Let go of the past? Maybe he can let go, or you can. I have a bit more trouble with it. And you're a fine one to talk about the past." Ron glared at Malfoy, who returned his glare with impatient condescension that made Ron itch to draw his wand again and make him eat slugs properly this time. "D'you know why Fred's oldest is named Billy?" he asked instead. "Four years ago our brother Bill - remember him? - died, a few weeks after his wife finally left him. Got blind drunk one night and tried to Apparate to her. Splinched himself. She'd got fed up after five miscarriages; side-effect of carrying children of a not-quite werewolf." Ron sneered as Malfoy paled. "Yeah, I suppose Ginny didn't mention any of that while you two were bonding over Harry; probably figured it might make things a bit awkward. Maybe you can walk away from your past easily. Not all of us can."
Malfoy swallowed hard and dropped his eyes. "I... I'm sorry." He cleared his throat. "And I'm sorry to have wasted your time. I shouldn't have said anything." He turned around and headed back down the hall, the door to the waiting room swinging shut behind him.
Ron stared at the lift door as it closed, and continued to stare as the lift went up - blast, he'd forgotten to punch the ground floor button. A mediwitch got on at the fourth floor, carrying a tiny house elf with its arm in a sling, talking to it soothingly.
How many times had he been to this damned place? So many times. Too many times, visiting his dad, his brothers, Fleur, Ginny, Hermione, Harry himself...
The lift doors opened on the fifth floor and the mediwitch and house elf got out and were replaced by three Healers and two visitors, all of them chattering animatedly.
The first time he'd visited had probably been for Charlie. Charlie had... what had he done? Quidditch injury at school? Ron would've been about seven or so. Then there had been Percy's accidental poisoning in second year Potions, Dad's snakebite, Bill's werewolf injuries, Fleur's miscarriages, Hermione's Incendio burns during the war, Harry's gashed-up leg from the same battle, Ginny's Bludger accident with the Falcons...
The Healers got out at the first floor and were replaced by a man carrying a small child with a bandage over half of its face.
"Now you heard the Healers," the man was saying. "Baby lindwurms are not pets, right? It's nice to be proud of being a Parselmouth, but you mustn't try to make friends with creatures like that, I don't care how cute they are."
"Not even Harry Potter himself would've been able to make friends with a lindwurm. And you are not Harry Potter," said the father as they reached the ground floor. "I certainly hope you'll remember this the next time you-" he trailed off as they left the lift.
Ron leaned his head back against the wall as the doors closed again and the lift started back up. He got off on the third floor again, heading back down the hallway and pausing for a long time before pushing open the door to the small sitting room.
Hermione and Ginny were speaking together in hushed voices, but Malfoy was nowhere to be seen. They stopped when they saw him and Ron pressed his lips together.
"Is Malfoy in there?" he asked Ginny, motioning to Harry's door. She nodded, her brown eyes guarded.
He took a deep breath and pushed open the door slowly. Malfoy was sitting on Harry's bed, his back to the door and leaning over Harry, kissing him deeply. As Ron watched, they broke apart and Malfoy murmured something.
"Yeah, no, it's not that bad any more," Harry said. "Bloody disorienting though. Remind me never to snap at a patient who complains of hearing colours again."
Malfoy laughed. "I will." He ran a hand through Harry's hair. "Merlin, you gave us a scare," he said softly.
"I-I know. I'm sorry. I just... I wasn't thinking. I will, from now on, I promise." He drew Malfoy back and kissed him, caressing the back of Malfoy's neck, and Malfoy made a soft sound in his throat before pulling back and resting his forehead against Harry's.
"No, you won't. But I appreciate the sentiment." He sat back, and Harry glimpsed Ron over Malfoy's shoulder and his eyes widened.
"Ron?" Harry said, and Malfoy turned around quickly. "What are you doing here?"
Ron licked his lips, suddenly nervous. His eyes met Malfoy's, taking in the way he drew closer to Harry protectively.
Ron cleared his throat and entered the room. "I came to see how you were doing. Say hello. I... just wanted to see if you were all right."
Harry nodded, glancing at Malfoy curiously. Malfoy's eyes didn't leave Ron's face.
"D'you want to sit down?" Malfoy asked neutrally after a long pause.
Ron let out his breath. "Yeah. Thanks."
Malfoy gave Harry a quick look and squeezed his hand, then got to his feet. "I'll, erm, just be outside if you need me," he said to Harry, who looked a bit nervous, but squeezed his hand back and nodded.
"Malfoy?" Ron said quickly as he walked past.
Malfoy's eyes widened slightly, but he nodded and left the room. There was a long silence and Ron closed his eyes briefly, calling upon his Auror training to navigate through a difficult situation.
"Right. So, you and Malfoy."
Harry tensed. "Yeah. Me and Draco."
"You never said anything."
"You never asked," Harry answered evenly.
Ron rubbed his forehead and nodded. "Fair enough." He took a deep breath. "Listen, mate, before I say anything, just let me know... is there any other big news you haven't told me about while... while I've been acting like a complete hippogryff's arse?"
And Harry smiled.