Two years later and I've finally come crawling back. Well, at least I have fic to show for it. Let it be known far and wide that this is not the only fruit of my labors these past 730 days – just the only fruit un-pornographic enough to show its face on FFN. Sad, I know.

So without further much ado, I present you with my latest lighthearted romp. If you were hoping I'd have matured in two years, written something a little more substantial, something with a little more gravitas, you are about to be so, so disappointed. Also, I didn't bother to break it up at all so this is one large chunk o' text. Beta by the most excellent Annie.

Err, disclaimer for old times' sake: Harry Potter is greater than me. QED.

The Thrill of the Chase and Other Illuminating Concepts

Harry Potter sometimes felt as though his life had thus far been a series of very challenging problems. He had hoped, expected even, that this would change after the war – but it hadn't. The war had been over for a year, his birthday was now a bank holiday (which he hoped would prove very useful for some excellent birthday parties down the road), and he had come up against yet another very challenging problem.

Harry Potter was in love with his best friend.

And not the one you'd expect, either. If he'd been in love with Hermione, things would have been very much easier, because she'd figure it out on her own and take the initiative to let him down gently.

But no. Harry was in love with Ron. Who had the emotional range of a teaspoon, according to Hermione. And she knew.

Harry wasn't quite sure how he'd come to be in love with Ron, but it had all started a very long time ago when they'd sat down on a train together and shared Chocolate Frogs and a mutual loathing of one Draco Malfoy.

Not that Harry had been in love with Ron back then – hell, he'd only been eleven years old, barely able to handle the idea of fancying someone – but that had been the beginning of Harry's very first and very best friendship ever.

Somewhere along the way it had turned into something a little more…gooey. He'd started staring and hastily looking away when Ron undressed, and wanting desperately to impress him, and making excuses to spend time with him, and getting strangely upset when he talked about girls, and feeling disconcerting urges to shield him from harm and keep him by his side at all times during the whole Voldemort debacle.

So that's basically where he was. In love with Ron.

Of course, he went to Hermione. She was a genius and would know just what to do, he reasoned. "Oh," she sighed when he finished his woeful tale, "been there."

Harry flailed. "What should I do?"

Hermione gave him a very blunt look. "You have to make it very, very clear to him. Otherwise he'll never get it. Tie yourself naked to his bed and wear a big sign with the words 'Property of Ron Weasley.' And then, for good measure, when he walks into the room, tell him that no, he's not imagining this and if he doesn't shag you right this instant you'll go completely insane and throw yourself off a bridge."

Harry sensed a note of bitterness in her tone and almost asked her if she herself had done such a thing, before thinking better of it. But she had the right idea. He had to make it very clear to Ron. But he couldn't do it all at once. He would reveal it little by little until Ron figured it out for himself in the end and fell madly in love with Harry. Harry would be sneaky and underhanded about it. Harry would seduce him.

The problem was, Harry had never seduced anyone and had no idea how to go about it. Firstly, he thought rationally, he ought to find out where Ron stood on the whole two-blokes-shagging bit.

"Ron," he said to his ginger-haired god of cluelessness while they were eating lunch, "have you ever thought seriously about shagging a bloke?"

Ron ruminated on this for a moment. "A Quidditch player, or a regular bloke?"

"Regular bloke." Everyone thought about shagging Quidditch players. Harry was pretty sure even monks thought about shagging Quidditch players.

"Not really," Ron said casually. "Not seriously."

"Would you, though?" Harry asked insistently.

"What, think seriously?"

"No, shag a bloke."

Ron chewed thoughtfully on his sandwich. "Yeah, I reckon," he replied with a shrug.

Phase one, complete.

Phase two was where it got difficult, because there wasn't really much of a phase two. The plan that Harry had drawn up was mostly a stick figure comic strip of him and Ron making out. This was why strategizing had always been Ron's forte.

Harry awoke one bright Saturday morning, ready for action. His plans were going swimmingly, he told himself.

Why don't you just tell him? a little voice said in the back of his head.

"Because…shut up!" he told it irritably, muttering about fear of rejection and the thrill of the chase and other illuminating concepts as he wandered into the kitchen of the flat he and Ron shared. Ron was still asleep, and would be for several hours if left alone. He was not a morning person.

Harry took advantage of the alone time to continue his plans for phase two. His stick figures were getting really good.

It was almost noon when Ron finally lumbered out of his bedroom. "Morning, 'Arry," he said in a throaty, sleepy voice as he helped himself to the coffee Harry had made. The light from the window backlit his hair really nicely, giving him a glowy golden outline. He was dressed only in his boxer shorts, like every morning, unintentionally showing off his toned arms and chest and stomach and sharp hipbones, all showered in freckles.

Harry's heart swelled at the sight of him. As did other parts of his anatomy, blessedly hidden under the table. Harry had been living with Ron long enough to have gotten over being embarrassed by his traitorous body; now he was just annoyed, as it meant he had to find his way back to his room without presenting his profile.

"Good morning," he returned pleasantly.

"What do you want to do today?" Ron said with a sleepy smile.

Harry personally thought it was a crime that the Most Charming Smile award continued to be given, because were he in charge of these things, the award for this and all future years would go to Ron, with first runner up also going to Ron. Harry was glad he was sitting down, or otherwise his knees would have given out.

"Oi," said Ron, snapping his fingers in front of Harry's face. "Pay attention, you dozy bastard."

"Sorry," said Harry. This happened all the time. Ron probably thought Harry was deaf by now. Or retarded. "What?"

"I said, here we have a bright, sunny Saturday, ripe for adventure. What do you want to do?"

"Dunno," said Harry, "let's go to Hermione's."

This was what they always did when they could find nothing to do. Hermione had turned down their offer to continue living as a trio, saying that they were grown men now and had to learn to live on their own, and besides, she needed some privacy. Ron and Harry hadn't been able to fathom why on earth she should suddenly need more privacy until they'd Flooed in one morning and met her new bloke in a state of considerable undress.

"Jim," the man had said, sticking out his hand amiably.

"Grr," Ron had growled.

Jim hadn't lasted, but the rule about not Flooing unannounced before noon had, so Ron and Harry took their time getting dressed before tumbling out of her fireplace.

"Hello," she said resignedly, and they proceeded to camp out in front of her telly. Harry and Ron did not have a telly, because they didn't have the technological know-how to get electricity in their largely magical flat. There were literally thousands of how-to books on the subject, but as they often had to explain to people, neither Harry nor Ron read books. So, they used Hermione's.

Ron was completely enamored of television. He got such a thrill out of the moving pictures that he seldom realized that what he was watching was complete drivel.

"I love this show," Ron said.

Hermione peeked out from her kitchen. "That's an advert, Ron. Harry, can I get your help with lunch?"

Harry tore his eyes away from Ron self-consciously, knowing that this was code for "Harry, get in here so we can have a serious conversation in hushed tones wherein I berate you for not yet having expressed your feelings for one Ronald Weasley, and also you need to chop vegetables for me."

Harry made his way reluctantly into the kitchen, where he was presented with a knife, cutting board, and zucchini. "You know," he grumbled unwisely, "there are spells for this."

"But I hate that magical aftertaste," Hermione replied, brandishing a spatula. "Cooking should be done by hand."

Harry was grateful that he hadn't gotten the full lecture. Hermione and Ron's mum had had this argument many times. Hermione and Molly Weasley arguing was a frightening thing to behold.

"Harry," Hermione began in her most Hermione-ish tone, "have you made any progress with Ron?"

"Yes," Harry said matter-of-factly. "I've completed Phase One of a very complex plan."

"And what is that?"

"I've ascertained that he would shag a bloke, hypothetically, even one who wasn't a professional Quidditch player."

Hermione rolled her eyes and took away Harry's chopped zucchini, replacing it with another one. "I could've told you that. We discussed it on several drunken occasions."

Harry was a bit put-out.

"Why don't you just tell him?"

Harry bit his lip. "Because…shut up," he finished lamely, wondering when Hermione and his conscience had got to be the same person.

Hermione regarded him squarely. "Very mature. Get out of here and go make some real progress."

Harry walked dejectedly back into the living room, where Ron was watching the weather.

"I love this show," said Ron.

Harry sighed.

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Harry looked at himself in the mirror with concern. He wasn't very sexy, he thought unhappily. He was…healthy-looking, and well-groomed, but not good-looking the way Ron was. Harry had the physique of a 12-year-old boy. The second most common phrase uttered to him by "fans," after "Can I see your scar?!" was "I thought you'd be taller." It didn't help that he was always hanging around with Ron, who was six and a half feet tall.

Ron had grown into himself over the years. He'd always been ridiculously tall, but he'd lost his gangliness and was now…gorgeous beyond all measure. He had broad shoulders and really bloody nice legs and lean muscles, all of which he exercised regularly because after the war, and this was probably the point at which Harry had given up trying to pretend he was straight, he'd become a professional Quidditch player.

As Harry told people as often as he could, Ron had led the Chudley Cannons to their best season finish in one hundred and five seasons. Not that it had been that good – they were still the Cannons, after all. Nonetheless, because of Ron, they'd gone from laughing stock of the league to everyone's favorite underdogs. Their stadium was always full; they were the only team with Ron Weasley: Ridiculously Good-Looking War Hero as their Keeper. And Harry could be found in the bleachers at every game. (He could do this, of course, because he was independently wealthy.)

The conundrum remained, though, of how Harry Potter was ever going to be in the same league as his best mate. He decided, first off, that he needed new clothes.

For this, he would need Ginny.

Things with Ginny had ended rather well, as she'd been the one to break it off. He was continually glad that he'd never had to explain to her that she was simply the wrong Weasley. Besides, she understood: Ron was a Quidditch player.

"Ginny," he said, "How can I dress so as to make Ron forget that I'm a bespectacled midget with a disfiguring facial blemish?"

Ginny shrieked. "I've been waiting for this day for years. We're going shopping!"

Harry was very afraid.

------------------------------------------

And rightly so, it turned out. Because Ginny did take him shopping. And she managed to misunderstand the size of his body even with him standing right in front of her.

"Ginny," he said pleadingly for the twentieth time, "this shirt is too small."

She eyed his torso critically and tugged at the hem, which barely covered his midriff. "No, it's not," she said sternly. "You're just used to wearing whale clothes. These are form-fitting. They show off your form. Don't you want to show off your form?"

"I guess so," Harry said warily, feeling very lost in the world of fashion.

Ginny sighed exasperatedly. "You're the worst homosexual I've ever met. If I hadn't personally been present when you made an excuse not to have sex with me, I wouldn't believe it."

"I'm glad you can talk about it comfortably," Harry said, to steer her away from rehashing that particular incident. "It means a lot to me that we're still friends."

"Oh, honestly," she said with a flick of her wrist. "We're much better off as friends. I knew as soon as I saw a photograph of your mum. It was so fucking Freudian I couldn't believe it."

Harry hadn't ever considered this, and it worried him. Was it some sort of deep-seated oedipal complex that had attracted him to not one but two red-haired Weasleys? Ron and his mum really didn't have much in common besides the hair…and for a bloke was he supposed to resemble his father? Only Harry looked just like his dad. Maybe he was supposed to be in love with himself? He was glad Ginny was here to understand these things.

"Try these on," Ginny said, thrusting a pair of trousers at him.

"Ginny!" Harry cried, scandalized. "These are leather!"

"Too right they are," she replied. "I'll wait outside." She left him alone in the fitting room with the trousers.

He sighed before shedding his jeans and stepping into the trousers. He discovered shortly thereafter that Ginny had once again underestimated his size. "Ginny," he called, "I need a size up."

"No you don't," she said petulantly from the other side of the door.

"I can't get them on," he whined as he struggled. They ought to invent a shoe horn for trousers, he thought bitterly. A trousers horn.

"For fuck's sake," she groaned, and burst back into the fitting room.

Harry screeched and did his best to shield his lower half with his hands.

"You're pathetic," she said fondly, moving to tug up the trousers. "They won't fit over your boxers," she said matter-of-factly, as if the fact that they were too small was something she'd discovered and not a proven fact that Harry had been struggling with for several excruciating minutes. "I guess you'll have to wear them without underwear."

Harry's brain came to a halt. "Without underwear?" he repeated, horrified.

"You're such a prude," she sighed, tugging the trousers back down and over his ankles. "You'll look fabulous. Ron will shag you senseless."

That was rather what Harry wanted, so he agreed to purchase the outrageous trousers.

He discovered when he got home that Ginny had been correct when she'd said they would fit without underwear. But it was a very, very tight fit. He examined himself in the mirror, turning around and craning his neck. His arse looked…shiny. He wondered if Ron approved. He checked his watch and saw that Ron was nearly home, and hastily changed into a pair of boxers, relishing the way his legs regained their circulation.

Ron Flooed in in his practice uniform, hair plastered to his sweaty forehead. "'Lo, Harry," he said as he plopped down on the sofa. Right next to…oh, fuck.

He gave a low whistle that made Harry's heart flutter nervously. "Are these yours, mate?" he asked, examining the trousers.

"Er. Yeah," Harry said sheepishly, immediately hating himself for being sheepish when he could have been flirtatious and alluring. Or something.

"Is this really your size?" Ron said, peering at the tag. "Have you shrunk?"

"Apparently." He was hopeless. Doomed. Pitiful.

"You need to start eating, mate."

Harry thought facing down Voldemort again would probably have been preferable to this.

------------------------------------------

"I need you to sell me a love potion," Harry said seriously.

Fred and George laughed, leading Harry into the back room of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes.

"Come now, Harry, you can't be that desperate," said Fred in a tone that suggested that he found it very funny that Harry was that desperate.

"And Ron surely can't be that hard to seduce," said George, sounding equally pleased.

Harry wondered woefully when it had become common knowledge that he was in love with Ron. Maybe, if he was lucky, Ron would hear about it and end his misery by killing him like he deserved.

"I'm very wealthy," Harry said, "and famous. I could make it worth your while."

"Harry, love potions are dangerous and illegal," said George.

"And normally, that wouldn't be an issue for us," said Fred.

"But we've our baby brother to think about," said George.

"Mostly," finished Fred, "we like seeing you work for it."

Harry decided their protective older brother scheme could go fuck itself.

"However, we will give you this," George said, presenting him with a case of what looked to be cheap Muggle beer.

Harry quietly resigned himself to his fate.

------------------------------------------

Moral qualms aside, Harry was not the type to refuse free beer, or waste it. He wasn't going to make an awkward pass at Ron, anyway. He was just going to get pissed enough to have the courage to tell Ron how he felt, and get Ron pissed enough so he'd, in Harry's fantasy world, admit he felt the same way, or, in reality, laugh instead of punching Harry's lights out. Not getting punched was something of a priority.

Ron smelled of soap when he returned late that night, and Harry deduced with a note of disappointment that he'd showered with the team before Flooing in. Harry had never been in the Cannons showers, but he thought about them often, how Ron might step under a spray of hot water, flushed from a hard practice…

That line of thought wouldn't do at all, especially while Harry was lounging in thin pajamas, and he cast an immobillus on his nether regions before they could make themselves known to the world. This was a more common practice for him than he wished to think about.

"I got takeaway," Harry said, handing a Styrofoam carton of pad thai to Ron as he sat down next to him on the sofa. "And free beer." He neglected to say 'from your brothers' because that would cast suspicion on him, and Ron had sworn off any foodstuff provided by Fred and George several years earlier.

Ron perked up. "Yeah?"

"A whole case."

Ron grinned toothily. "Are you planning on getting me drunk, Potter?"

Harry's stomach did a little flip like it always did when Ron called him Potter in that sardonic way. "Absolutely."

They played several rounds of beer pong with Harry as the obvious victor. Ron had a lot of trouble mastering a ping-pong ball and insisted that if it were worth anything it'd aim itself and save him the trouble. Harry listened to him rant as the room tilted pleasantly, enjoying the rumbly sound of Ron's voice and paying minimal attention to what he was actually saying. Harry could only imagine Ron's voice when he shagged. Was he loud? Harry would make him scream.

Harry noticed idly that the spell had worn off his dick, which was coming up to say hello, the prat. He couldn't really be arsed about the awkward bulge in his thin cotton trousers, and he was much too drunk to be doing magic now, especially on his bits. He wondered if Ron would notice. In fact, he dared Ron to notice.

But Ron was still busy talking – he got really chatty when he was drunk. Maybe he got chatty during sex, too. Maybe he would say really dirty things. Harry almost drooled when he thought about it, and Little Harry actually did begin to drool a bit, which was most ungentlemanly of him.

Harry let out a sudden bark of laughter. Ron abruptly stopped whatever tirade he was on to look at him quizzically.

"I was anthropomorphizing my penis," Harry said by way of apology, but immediately regretted having brought Ron's attention to it as Ron's eyes flicked down to where it was quite obviously enjoying itself and blinked.

Shit. He hadn't really meant the dare!

"You've got an erection," Ron pointed out.

"That I have," Harry responded, figuring he may as well hold his head high in the face of humiliation. Ron looked at him expectantly for more information on the erection, but none was forthcoming. Harry had yet to work out what he was going to say in terms of his feelings, having got so far as Phase 2.1: Get Sloshed With Ron (which he did quite a lot anyway) before abandoning his plan again.

He wished Hermione would write the plan for him. She'd already dated Ron. She knew how it was done. Then again, though, their relationship hadn't lasted and despite his current immature state of mind Harry wanted what ever he could have with Ron to last. Besides, Hermione was a girl and Harry wasn't, so it was actually completely different. He still wished she'd write the plan, though. His doodles were getting more and more graphic and he was uncomfortable planning at all if it meant he had to draw his stupid prat of a penis.

Speaking of uncomfortable and penis, Harry needed to have a wank. He wasn't about to tell Ron he was in love with him with a ridiculous erection. He stumbled to the loo and made quick work of it before returning. Ron seemed to have gotten more drunk in his absence, and he took some time to catch up.

Head buzzing warmly, Harry decided it was time.

"What time, 'Arry?"

Harry started. Was Ron reading his mind?

"No, stupid, you're sayin' it out loud."

"Oh. Well, look at that." Very often when he was sufficiently pissed Harry lost the power to keep his thoughts in his head and they escaped unbidden from his mouth. "Anyway, I've got ter tell you somethin' very important, Ron."

Ron turned to look at him, his eyes a little unfocused.

"I value our friendship a lot, Ron, and I don't want to jeopardize it, but there's somethin' 'at's been botherin' me for a very long time." Harry silently cheered over not having slurred the word 'jeopardize.'

Ron looked strangely crestfallen. "Are you breaking up with me?"

"No, just the opposite!" Harry reassured him, speaking in a rush. "I'm in love with you!" For a moment, he didn't realize he'd said it. Then it caught up with him, and someone lit off a firecracker inside his head.

Ron went into a mad fit of giggles that Harry soon couldn't help but join. Finally, Ron sobered enough to say, "Really?"

Harry nodded, noting the way the room seemed to nod a bit differently than his head. "Y'don't have to, y'know, do anything or whatever. I just wanted it t'be…out in the open."

"Well there it is," Ron said cheerily, but with a decisiveness that crushed Harry a little. They sat in silence for a couple minutes before Ron spoke up in a thick, sleepy voice. "Though I'd give it a go, probably."

Harry turned sharply to look at him. "What? Hey?" But Ron's head simply slumped to one side – he had fallen asleep. Harry shoved his shoulder. "Elaborate, you drunken bastard!" But Ron just snored in response.

Harry was at a loss. Ron slept like the dead and Harry's head was a series of exclamation points. After having a good yell at Ron's corpse-like body, Harry had another beer, another wank, and after a short rest, a third wank. Then he went to bed, hoping things would right themselves by morning.

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He woke to a rhythmic pounding in the back of his head, and downed enough hangover potion to kill a hippogriff. The night before was a blur, with the memories dancing just on the edge of his consciousness. He hoped it had gone well.

It was in the shower that Ron's mumbled confession of sorts came back to him, and he was compelled to have yet another wank, which was a bit embarrassing, really. He felt about fifteen years old.

He emerged, fresh as a daisy, to find for the first time since they had begun living together that Ron was awake before him. It wasn't just unusual – it was unsettling. Harry's equally rabid senses of hope and dread gnawed at him.

"Made coffee," Ron said casually. Too casually? No, regular-casually. Perhaps not casually enough?! Fuck.

"Er, Harry." Alarms went off in Harry's head. 'Er' could only mean something momentous. He waited for Ron to continue. "I said I made coffee. Oi!"

Stupid! 'Er' wasn't momentous, 'er' was just what you said when your mate's standing in the middle of the kitchen like a prat!

The Daily Prophet hit the side of his head. Stop arguing with yourself and say something!!!

Harry moved jerkily. "Coffee," he stated.

Ron laughed lightly. "We really must've gotten rat-arsed last night."

Must've?

"Not really," Harry said, finally in control of himself. "Looks like we only finished half the case. Unless you snuck some tequila while I was in the loo."

Ron furrowed his brow. "You'd think a man of my build could hold his liquor a little better. I can't remember a thing."

The bottom dropped out of Harry's stomach. "You…don't…remember…"

"And not even in that it'll-come-back-to-me way, either. Last night is completely lost to me."

Ron didn't remember. All that drunken revelry for nothing. Harry would never know if Ron meant what he'd said. And worst of all, he'd have to come up with another way to break the news.

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Two days later, Harry was becoming truly desperate. Maybe he could get a benevolent Dark wizard to cast Imperius on him and then get him to tell Ron. Maybe he could casually offer to teach Ron Legilimency and let him see a few choice images. Maybe he could finally agree to that tell-all memoir some pompous arse was offering to ghost-write, and spend a chapter or five on his adoration for Ron.

He incendioed yet another slip of parchment. These plans were not cutting it.

A fresh piece of parchment inspired a new strategy: He would ask Ron out on a date. How, though? And what sort of date would he and Ron go on? They did practically everything together. What was there left to do? They couldn't go to the Leaky, or the Three Broomsticks, or any of their other regular haunts, since those were already Mate Places. They couldn't go to a Quidditch game, since Ron was always at Quidditch games. He needed something new and exciting to help Ron see him in a new light.

"Ginny!" he screamed frantically into his fireplace just before Ron was due home. Ginny could be seen trudging towards the fire and leaning forward with an exasperated demeanor. "Ginny, I need to ask Ron out on a date. Where should I take him?"

"A gay club."

Harry sputtered. "What? No way!"

She shrugged. "It'd send the message loud and clear. And maybe you'd finally wear those lovely clothes I picked out for you." She gave him a reprimanding raise of the eyebrows.

"They're embarrassing," Harry whined, having been over this quite a few times already in the past few days. He didn't understand why she kept hounding him, anyway. How many occasions were there for leather trousers?

She shrugged again. "Take him to dinner, I suppose."

Harry heard the door open behind him and hastily thanked her. He pulled his head out of the fireplace and swiveled to find Ron leaning against the opposite doorway.

"'Lo," he said. "Were you tying up the Floo? Had to Apparate home. 'M so tired I nearly splinched m'self."

Harry was impressed that Ron had Apparated all the way from Chudley. "Sorry," he said, trying not to focus on Ron's uniform. For all that the orange color clashed with his hair, a Quidditch uniform never made anyone look bad, and for someone already so good-looking… He shook his head. "Was fire-calling Ginny."

Ron gave him a conspiratorial look that made Harry pine for the days when he would politely punch a wall when Harry and Ginny were together. Of late, though, Ron seemed to have joined the rest of his family in thinking the match would be an excellent one that would bear them many wonderful children and full acceptance of Harry into the Weasley clan.

"For the last time, Ron, we're just friends now."

The side of Ron's mouth quirked. "I know," he said seriously with a strange hint of sadness. "I just want to see you find someone."

Warmth blossomed in Harry's chest. Emotional range of a teaspoon, his arse.

He realized after a few seconds too long that he was still smiling dreamily, and shook himself out of it. "Got any plans for dinner?"

"Don't think so," Ron said, scratching the back of his neck.

"Well," Harry said haltingly, "Don't make any."

"All right," Ron said, smiling.

Harry's heart thundered. Now he just needed some plans for dinner.

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Ron was not the sort to go for fancy restaurants, Harry knew. Harry had learned this when he had conferred with Ron over where to take a date, a leggy blonde girl with big teeth and bigger tits. This had been in the days when Ron was just starting to get used to being famous and was still gladly accepting propositions from fans.

Ron had a great talent for picking up women, but often had little idea of what to do with them once he had them (besides having sex right where Harry could hear them, of course), which had been the whole reason for him asking for Harry's help.

Harry had obliged, of course, though the entire affair made him so jealous that his ears actually developed a greenish hue for several days. He'd pointed Ron in the direction of several lovely establishments, all of which had been great successes, as Ron had informed him later. Harry was a very good friend, really.

Would it be too horribly obvious if Harry took Ron to one of those same places?

He shook himself. There was no such thing as too obvious, his Hermione-conscience reminded him. The little Hermione in his brain seemed confident enough, but he had his doubts. What if Ron got weirded out that they were going to a date restaurant and said no? Then Harry would have gotten rejected without even getting to confess his love directly, which almost didn't seem worth it.

No, chided brain-Hermione sternly, you are not backing out now. You're a Gryffindor! Be brave!

Harry nodded stoically and barged into Ron's room, where Ron was perched on his bed reading a magazine. "Get dressed," he said, his stoicism spilling into his voice. "We're going out for dinner. At ummfancyrestaurant," he added hastily.

Ron, probably finding him to be overly stoic about the whole thing, made to do as he was told as Harry stepped out. He did a little jig on the other side of the door. Ron hadn't shot him down! Yet!

In true Ron form, Ron was ready in less than five minutes. As he stepped out of his room, however, he couldn't have looked more perfect. Harry's inadequacies nagged at him.

"You go ahead," his mouth said, obviously enacting a plan that his brain hadn't yet been let in on. It was only after the echoing crack of Ron's disapparition faded that he understood: the trousers.

It was time. He marched into his room, to the closet where the shopping bag with the clothes Ginny had picked out had been relegated. Delicately, hesitantly, he pulled out and unfolded the trousers.

They were quite nice, really.

He still felt embarrassed wearing them with no underwear. He scrutinized himself in the mirror. Could people tell he wasn't wearing underwear? What would they think?

Harry passed on the shirts Ginny had selected – together with the trousers, they all made him look too poncey. Couple such an outfit with the lack of underwear, and Ron would get the completely wrong idea.

More like the entirely accurate idea, said his conscience, which had now taken on a Ginny aspect. Ginny and Hermione? It was too much.

After a brief but vicious skirmish with his hair, Harry apparated over to the restaurant. Ron's fiery head shone like a beacon in the highly mahogany room.

"Took you long enough," Ron muttered good-naturedly, before raising his eyebrows at Harry's outfit. "Excellent trousers, mate," he said with a chuckle.

Harry thought so too. He liked them a little more every minute he wore them.

Harry would have been content for Ron to continue gazing at his trousers indefinitely, but Ron instead took a moment to take in their quite posh surroundings. "I've not been here in a right long time," he remarked. "Not since m'last date."

This made Harry unspeakably giddy, because not only had Ron alluded to the fact that he hadn't taken anyone out lately, but he'd also recognized this establishment as a Date Locale, and by association, this outing as a Date.

Harry was grinning so hugely that he had to stuff his fist in his mouth just to look more normal.

Ron eyed him with amused concern. "All right there, Harry?"

"Mmph," Harry replied happily. His glee didn't abate as their waiter approached, but he did have to remove his fist from his mouth to order.

"What's got you in such a good mood?" Ron asked lightly from across the table.

You!!!! Harry nearly shouted. "This," he settled for, motioning around him. "I'm still getting used to, y'know, relaxing."

"Two war heroes such as the Boy Who Lived and his trusty sidekick surely deserve the quintessence of luxury," Ron said with a cheeky grin.

"Ron, you know you're not my sidekick," Harry insisted for the zillionth time. "If anything, it's the other way around. You've got legions of screaming fans, mate. Legions."

Ron affected what was obviously supposed to be a mocking smile. "Don't be jealous. You know I'll always be your biggest fan, Potter."

Harry melted. Ron yelled in surprise and stood up so as not to get any of the goo that had been Harry on his feet, and the restaurant staff quickly and discreetly cleaned up the mess. Everyone bemoaned the loss of the leather trousers.

Not really. But it was a close thing.

They chatted for a long while over dinner, in an enjoyable but decidedly matey fashion. Harry desperately wanted to say something dashing and romantic, but he was troubled not only by his complete inability to think of anything suitably impressive (How had Ron thought of that 'biggest fan' bit? Had that just come to him? Clearly, Harry was way out of his depth.) but also by brain-Hermione's constant reminders about bluntness. By her estimation, the correct thing for Harry to say would be "I want you to bugger me…Yes, in the arse, you heard correctly," but that wouldn't do over dinner at all. And anyway, it didn't convey the depth of Harry's feelings, though getting buggered by Ron was certainly not absent from his To Do list.

"You look nice," he said rather too abruptly for it to have been smooth, or even very appropriate. Still, it got the job done; complimenting one's mate on his appearance was generally Not Done, so Ron would get the implicit message that Harry did think he looked nice, and was in love with him. Harry had planned all of this out, you see, and was by no means blurting out accidental private thoughts about Ron.

"Your hair is really soft, and I like your freckles. You have a vibrant and charismatic personality," he continued. "So, um, this fish is delicious."

Harry was a master of seduction.

Harry tried to get the check, but Ron insisted on splitting. This undately behavior didn't worry Harry unduly; since Ron had come into modest wealth as a professional athlete, he took great pride in paying for the odd extravagance.

He wasn't informed of his inevitable failure until Ron said, upon returning to their flat, "That place really is nice. I'll definitely take my next date there."

So it hadn't been a date. Even with the trousers.

Brain-Hermione wasn't at all surprised. You should've tried for a kiss, she chided.

Gentlemen do not kiss on the first date! Harry insisted defensively.

What use is it to anyone if the only remaining advocate of proper chivalry is attempting to woo Ron "subtle-as-a-bag-of-bricks-to-the-face" Weasley? brain-Hermione opined, and fell into pointed silence.

Harry wondered whether anyone else's conscience was quite so argumentative.

------------------------------------------

"'That's right, Potter, take it like the good little cockslut you are,'" Harry mumbled absent-mindedly in his Stick Figure Ron voice (rugged and yet compassionate), hard at work on his newest top secret plan.

"What's that you've got there?" said Ron, appearing out of nowhere right behind him.

Harry jumped about a foot into the air and, while airborne, nonchalantly stuffed the plan into his mouth.

"What's what?" he asked, once he'd swallowed the thing.

Ron regarded him momentarily with concern before dismissing the episode. "Pre-season scrimmage tomorrow. You coming?"

"Of course," Harry replied, noting that perhaps he should invest in edible ink, or at the very least something non-toxic. "Who are we playing?"

"Catapults."

Harry shared a grin with Ron – it would be an easy victory. The Caerphilly Catapults had long been the second-worst team in the league, until Ron had taken the Quidditch world by storm. Now the Catapults were dead last, with the Appleby Arrows coming in just ahead (and the Cannons third-to-last; one Keeper can't do everything, after all). There was allegedly a curse on all teams with weaponry in their names, as cast by a humanitarian commissioner centuries prior, but that was another story altogether.

"Is Hermione coming?" Harry inquired.

"Nah, she's got work. Like, y'know, most people."

Ron regularly niggled at Harry to get a job, professing his worry that Harry would waste away to oblivion. The Auror division had been courting him for ages, but Harry found he'd had his fill of defending against the Dark Arts in his teenage years.

Ron had suggested he go out for professional Quidditch – he had the talent, after all. Harry point-blank refused to play for any other team than the one Ron played for, and the Cannons had a Seeker for a five-year contract, one year into which he'd developed severe narcolepsy, so he wasn't likely to be traded anytime soon.

Harry was content, for the time being, to remain unemployed. Between his inheritance from his parents and Sirius and the many anonymous gifts he received every June on the anniversary of Voldemort's dispatch, he was, financially, pretty well set.

Quidditch season was a tough time for Harry. This was Ron's third season on the team, and second as a starting player, so Harry was well-acquainted with the exquisite torture that was watching him play.

Ron had lacked confidence in his year playing for Gryffindor, but the potent combination of living away from his family, successfully dating Hermione, hearing early and often from Harry how excellent he was, and finally growing into his hands had ridden him of that affliction rather well.

And so it was that he'd been accepted by the (admittedly dismal) Chudley Cannons, his lifelong favorite Quidditch team. Their decades-long losing streak had actually worked to Ron's advantage, as he quickly stood out as one of the better players. Once he started suggesting a play here and there to the captain, they began losing by less embarrassing margins…and occasionally winning.

Ron was living the dream. Harry watched the whole thing with barely contained joy, but also had to contend with the formidable and ever-growing problem that was his unfortunate attraction to Ron. Usually, he managed to keep the thing behind closed doors, but at a Quidditch game he was out in the open, still reasonably famous though his "boring" personal conduct made him a poor target for tabloids, and experiencing swoon levels previously unknown to man.

Plus, watching Ron fly was sort of like porn. But way better.

Such was Harry's state of mind as he braved the blazing sun for the Cannons' pre-season scrimmage. The score was a whopping 0-0, since Ron was an ace Keeper but the team's Chasers at times left something to be desired. The Seeker was dozing happily on his broom while his opponent eyed him warily, sure that he was doing some sort of complicated feint.

Harry watched with clenched fists as a Catapults Chaser faked right and threw the Quaffle at the left hoop – Ron dived for it impressively and saved. Harry watched through Omnioculars as Ron chucked the Quaffle back into play, yelling unheard orders at his team. Gods, Harry loved it when he got all intense like that…

Harry languished in his mostly pornographic thoughts to his heart's content, as he had once again thoughtfully Immobilized his lower parts prior to the game.

Now's your chance, came a familiar voice in his head. Brain-Ginny, it seemed, had relieved brain-Hermione from her duties for the time being.

Yes, I know now's my chance, he thought huffily. Be quiet so I can visualize!

No, you knob, she said with much exasperation. Your chance to DO something!

Harry failed to understand how Ron flying fifty feet in the air during a professional sporting event constituted his chance to do something.

When the match is over, they'll hopefully have won if Golding ever wakes up, and Ron will be all flushed and pumped with adrenaline and you'll run over to him for a manly embrace and before he knows what hit him – you kiss him!

Harry was skeptical.

Come off it, she insisted, it worked with me!

But you fancied me already, he pointed out. You'd fancied me for years!

Harry could practically hear her hands fly defensively to her hips. Look, I'd got over that, I had two proper boyfriends while you had that whole awkward mess with that skank Cho Chang.

Yeah, but everyone knew they were just to make me jealous, Harry insisted, talking more candidly about this angst-ridden period in their lives than he ever had with real Ginny. No one believed you were really over me.

He heard a gasp of indignance. Harry James Potter, you arrogant, pigheaded—

And then, apparently, she stopped speaking to him too.

Good. Maybe he'd get on better without a conscience.

His attention was immediately diverted back to the game by Ron's spectacular swooping and diving. He was getting rather a lot of action, since the Beaters for the Cannons were not top-notch (one had no aim and the other had a childhood fear of Bludgers). Luckily, the Catapults' Chasers were the worst in the league anyway. Upon reflecting on the quality of this match, Harry came to the conclusion that most people were here, like him, to ogle Ron.

"OI!" Ron yelled, loud enough for Harry to hear. For one split second he thought Ron was reprimanding him for ogling, but he followed Ron's gaze to the dozing Seeker – and the unmistakable glint of gold fluttering by his head. Golding jerked awake and blinked sleepily.

"THE SNITCH!" Ron yelled, pointing frantically.

Golding, out of sorts, thought Ron was waving hello, and waved back, opening and closing a lazy fist.

The Snitch, sure he was performing some masterful bit of trickery, flew erratically to throw him off. Unfortunately, since he was only sitting there, it flew into his open palm just as his fingers closed around it.

Golding's brow creased in confusion as he opened his fist to find he'd won the game.

The crowd, puzzled, cheered wildly. The score was 150 to 0.

Harry whooped as the team did a victory lap. He caught Ron's eye as he flew by and cheered him loudly. Ron shook his head in disbelief before exiting the stadium.

As the crowd dispersed, still scratching its collective head in confusion, Harry made his way discreetly to the players' lounge, where the team would assemble out of the locker room.

"Password?" asked the door.

"Chudley rules," he replied.

"Hear hear!" it cried, swinging open to reveal a freshly clean team, chatting animatedly.

"Hey Harry!" chorused the team as he entered. They knew him very well; the Cannons didn't have all that many celebrity fans, anyway.

"Hey guys! Great playing!" He craned his neck to see that Golding had fallen asleep in his chair once again.

Ron stepped out from behind someone and Harry lit up. "Ron!" he cried, and ran to him.

His heart hammered. This was it.

But the whole team was watching. What if Ron freaked out?

Harry chickened out. But enjoyed his manly hug nonetheless.

Fuck it, he thought, and right before he pulled away he kissed Ron on the cheek, too quickly for anyone to notice. Probably too quickly for Ron to notice, too, since he had no reaction at all.

But Harry had a good time anyway, more than he'd even expected to; Ron's warm skin under his lips, smelling of soap and adrenaline, Ron's body so near to him…

Unfortunately, he popped an epic boner.

"We're going out for a pint," Ron said, none the wiser. "Coming?"

"No, that's all right," Harry said, lest the Cannons notice he was obsessed with Ron. "I'll stay home. Should I make something for you?"

"Yeah, mate, that'd be excellent!" Ron said with a big smile.

Ron and the Cannons took their leave, and Harry was about to do the same when a small, scruffy voice stopped him.

"You should've done it properly, you know."

Harry turned, startled. It was Golding, still sitting slouched in his chair but now apparently awake.

"Sorry? Done what?"

"You should've kissed him."

Golding seemed to be awfully nonchalant about the whole thing.

"I, um…" Harry stuttered. "I didn't want to, er, embarrass him, y'know, in front of the team. If he was totally grossed out or whatever."

"Everyone knows," Golding said with a toothy smile. "You're obsessed with him, it's obvious."

Harry's heart plummeted. What if they'd told him? "You don't…tease him, do you?"

Golding gave a barking laugh. "Are you kidding? Way too mature for our locker room. Mostly we just call him fire-crotch and hang his jockstrap from the hoops."

Harry knew Ron's jockstrap was not remotely appropriate to dwell on, and forced himself out of the gutter. "Oh," he said uselessly.

"And b-b-besides," Golding gave a huge yawn, "he wouldn't be grossed out at all."

Harry almost missed him say it, stuck in a rapidly expanding thought about Ron playing Quidditch naked. "What do you mean?" he said, shaking himself.

But Golding had fallen asleep.

Harry sighed as he went to Floo home. The Cannons were a bloody weird team.

Harry went home, wanked furiously, and made a stir fry, which he ate half of for more wanking energy and put the rest in the larder for Ron, and turned in early in anticipation of a night of wanking and…more wanking.

If he didn't know better, Harry might have thought it was a little depressing.

------------------------------------------

He was awoken the next morning by a telltale tsk-tsking from his living room. "Gods, you're both still in bed? What sort of slug house are you living in?"

Harry checked his bedside clock. 9:42. Life was cruel, and Hermione crueler.

He stumbled out to the living room to offer her some coffee, and was mildly surprised to see that her yelling had lured Ron from his slumber as well.

Ron was, as usual, dressed only in his boxers.

Harry discreetly sat down at the kitchen table. Hermione could fix her own coffee.

Ron recounted the match to Hermione, who congratulated him on his shut-out and expressed concern over Golding's medical situation. Then Ron launched into his various bar-hopping hijinks, which Harry automatically tuned out because they invariably involved people Ron wanted to sleep with who were girls and not Harry.

Hermione had been right. Seducing Ron really was hard. Harry was at his wits' end and had really come no closer to confessing his feelings or, more importantly, instilling some more-than-matey feelings in Ron.

"And they kept calling me 'fire-crotch,' only I don't know what it means – my crotch is rarely aflame, to my knowledge, and I haven't got the clap!" Ron was saying.

Hermione sighed. "Honestly, Ron, try not to be so literal about everything. It just means you've got red pubic hair."

In the absence of a drink to spurt, Harry choked on his own spit. When he emerged, red-faced, from his coughing fit, both of his friends were looking at him; Ron with pitying amusement, and Hermione with a very dangerous look in her expression.

Fuck. She meant to make him do it now!

"Well, I must be off," she said, continuing to look at him. "I'm sure you can find something to talk about. Good luck, Harry." She disapparated right from her seat with a pop.

Oh, bloody hell.

"Good luck with what?" Ron asked.

"Life endeavors," Harry said, feeling giddy with nerves. "Listen, Ron—"

"Sorry Har, gotta run. Practice. I'll be home 'round noon."

He went back into his room, presumably for clothes, and Harry heard him disapparate from inside.

This charade had gone just about far enough, Harry decided. He checked his watch. He had two hours to get everything ready.

------------------------------------------

By 11:54 that morning Harry had done some very quick research, bought a few supplies, and taken the most thorough shower of his life.

He was putting the finishing touches on his attire when he heard Ron step out of the fireplace in the living room.

"Incarcerous," he hissed, and his wand tumbled to the ground as the spell activated.

"Harry?" he heard Ron calling from the living room. He didn't answer. He wondered whether Ron was still wearing his practice uniform. Harry did enjoy it but perhaps it would be better if he'd already showered…

"Oi! Harry!" Ron's voice was getting louder, closer. "You berk, where've you got off to?" He was just outside the door. "It seemed like there was something on—"

He opened the door. "—your mind."

Ron had just walked into his own bedroom to find Harry tied to his bed. Stark naked.

"You're not imagining this," Harry said deliberately. "If you don't shag me right this instant I'll go completely insane and throw myself off a bridge."

Ron opened and closed his mouth several times before he was able to speak. "Harry," he said finally, "would you believe that this is not the first time this has happened to me?"

Harry smiled and gave a what-can-you-do shrug as best he could with his hands tied to the headboard.

"Although," Ron continued, "Hermione's hat was not nearly as cool."

Harry's hat was pretty bloody cool, seeing as it was a Cinco de Mayo sombrero he'd bought from Ron's brothers for half price. Only he wouldn't mention that to Ron, because it would make Ron think the hat was less cool and more likely to kill him, and he was all about Ron thinking he was cool at the moment.

In the ensuing silence, Harry became aware of a dim noise in his ear, and realized it was applause coming from inside his head. Oh, now they were speaking to him?

Go away, he said, this is private! No girls allowed!

Oh, hush, said brain-Ginny. It's not as if we haven't seen you naked before.

No! Harry insisted. You haven't! I'm very particular about who sees me naked!

Well we've both seen Ron naked, in any case, brain-Hermione said.

Fair point, Harry conceded. Ron was notoriously liberal with his nakedness. But your plan isn't working! He's just standing there!

He's close! brain-Hermione insisted. I can hear the cogs turning in his head!

How can you hear that?!

We've been doing double duty as his conscience as well, Ginny snickered.

In that case, they doubly had to leave. You cannot stay. Goodbye. You MUST GET OUT OF HERE.

Oh, okay, hold on…

There was a rustling in the living room and then Hermione and Ginny stepped into the room behind the slackjawed Ron.

"Hello boys," they said pleasantly.

Harry was tied to the bed, meaning his efforts to cover up his bits were fruitless, and all he could do was emit a girlish squeak.

Ron, likewise, shrieked at the intrusion and threw himself protectively over Harry.

Once his panic receded, Harry's brain went haywire. Ron was on him. On him!!!!

"Oh, grow up," Hermione said, approaching them. "I'm just here for the walkie-talkies."

"Walkie whatsits?" Ron asked. Ron who was on top of Harry. Awesome.

She reached behind his ear and pulled out what indeed looked to be a very small walkie-talkie. "You didn't really think we were your conscience, did you?" She pulled another shrunken walkie-talkie out from behind Harry's ear.

"You two, by the way, have the most inappropriate thoughts," Ginny interjected. "You should both be ashamed."

The two girls turned and left the room, exchanging a high five as they closed the door behind them.

Which left Harry and Ron, both very bewildered and still very close together, alone.

"You're on top of me," Harry felt compelled to observe.

"Sorry," Ron said.

"No, it's really great," Harry said as he enjoyed it.

Ron shifted, biting his lip for a moment before speaking. "So, er, did you mean that? What you said before?"

Harry felt a thrill of excitement in his gut. "Well, the wording was Hermione's. But the sentiment, yeah."

Ron paused again. "You're naked," he commented finally.

"Sorry," Harry said.

"No, it's fantastic! Er, I mean, you look really great. Better than with those trousers, even."

Ron had liked the trousers! Ron…Ron liked him naked! Ron liked him! This was going better than Harry had ever dreamed it would. "But why didn't you say anything?"

Ron flushed. "I didn't…think you would be interested."

That had to be the stupidest thing Harry had ever heard. "Not even when I said your hair was soft and I liked your freckles?"

Ron's blush deepened. "No…"

"Not even when I kissed you?"

Ron shrugged. "I thought you were being…worldly…"

Harry looked at him skeptically. "Worldly."

Ron met his gaze, eyes suddenly glittering. "You'll just have to do it again. And properly this time."

So Harry did. And it was incredible.

And then his sombrero exploded.

Ron reared back in shock as confetti rained down on them. "What the fuck? Harry, you didn't get this at Wheezes, did you?"

The question was answered for him as the unmistakable voices of Fred and George spoke in unison. "Dear Harry: ¡Feliz cinco de Mayo! Congratulations on climbing another rung on the Weasley ladder. Don't think we haven't realized we're next! Love, Gred and Forge."

The smoking hat was silent.

Finally, Ron cleared his throat. "So, is Bill your final conquest?" he asked, snickering.

"Gods, if only," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "I'm stuck with you."

Ron grinned down at him from astride his waist. "Damn right you're stuck with me."

As sparkly as that made Harry feel, there was something bothering him. "But Ron, I thought you said you'd never thought about shagging a bloke except for Quidditch players."

Ron sighed. "Harry. Mate. You're Harry Potter. Even monks think about shagging you."

And then Harry died happy.

Not really. But it was a close thing.

------------------------------------------

AN EPILOGUE OF SORTS:

Harry emerged from Ron's bedroom after many hours of strenuous activity followed by several more of unconsciousness to find Ron sitting at the kitchen table, tittering at a piece of parchment in his hand.

Harry's heart sank. It was a very familiar piece of parchment. Containing a secret plan way above Ron's security clearance.

"You've got some scary fans, mate," Ron remarked lightly as he took note of Harry's presence.

"I – yes," Harry said dumbly.

"Sorry I read your post, mate, but it was lying rolled up on the floor – have you read this?"

Harry was quite sure he had. "No," he said.

"It's a comic strip," Ron said gleefully. "Of you getting a proper spanking from some bloke."

"Imagine that," Harry said blandly.

"Yeah, see, I can tell this is you cos you've got big glasses and a zigzag on your head. Can't tell who this other guy is though. But he's hung like a hippogriff."

Harry emitted a hysterical giggle.

"It's even got a little speech bubble over your head, only this guy's handwriting's almost as bad as yours. Can you read that?" He handed Harry the parchment.

Harry cleared his throat. "'Thank you, sir, may I have another,'" he stated.

Ron roared with laughter. "Well, whoever he is, I reckon he wants you for his sex slave."

Harry grunted.

"You know, we can run that to the Ministry and they'll trace the drawing and get you a restraining order or something, if you want," Ron said, looking a little concerned.

"No," said Harry. "I think I can handle it."

He pocketed the parchment and smiled to himself.

What Ron didn't know couldn't hurt him.

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