The house was clean and organised.
The cupboards were stocked with food.
All the household jobs that needed to be done were done long ago.
Ron stood in the kitchen and tried to remember what he used to do with himself before he had to administer potions at set times during the day, arrange for cover if he wanted to pop out for an hour, or keep a demanding aunt company.
Just the idea that he could go out if he wanted to was foreign to him. He could leave. He could grab a jacket and walk out the door and not tell anybody where he was going or when he'd be back. He almost had an anxiety attack just thinking about it.
He told himself he was being ridiculous and headed into the living room to grab a pair of trainers and pull them onto his feet. As he laced them up he contemplated if it would be a good or a bad idea to see the Milk man again.
He bit his lip, still undecided, and straightened up. Pulling his jacket off the banister he headed for the kitchen fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo powder.
"The Leaky Cauldron!"
He had spent an hour wandering aimlessly up and down Diagon Alley before giving up his pretence that he was actually out for any particular reason and stomping into Wheezes with a sigh of resignation.
"Ronniekins!" George greeted him, happily.
"Hiya," Ron said with a nod before looking around the reasonably busy shop, "I was just passing and thought I'd pop in."
"A lot's changed since you were last here little bro," George slapped a hand on Ron's back and began to give him a guided tour of the shop floor, "we have an adult line, if you get my drift, and an expanded section at the back for Auror related business."
Ron angled his head to try and peer through the beaded partition at the shop's version of Hogwarts library's restricted section but couldn't see anything of interest before his brother dragged him away to one side.
"...because of you really and it's so popular I think I might need to expand another back room on the other side of the shop. Even St Mungo's have been interested."
"Who...what?" Ron shook his head and tried to pick up the loose thread of the conversation again, with no success.
George rolled his eyes and slapped Ron around the back of his head before shoving him towards a new section of the shop that was filled with products in green packaging.
"I said I came up with some ideas for pleasant treatments and stuff like that. You know how awful Lupin said the Wolfsbane potion was?"
"Well I had Lavender Brown in here complaining about the same thing and I thought about how it's only ever been stated that it's sugar that makes it useless so I did some experiments and sent some samples to your canine ex and there's two potions that worked just as well as the crap tasting one while also managing to be palatable."
George picked up a bottle with Spiced Wolfsbane written on the label and turned it in his hand to read off the added ingredients to Ron.
"Cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and nutmeg; they're a nice wintry combination and all do something to overpower the nasty taste from the potion. Then there's vanilla pod one which is really heady but adds sweetness without any sugar. Honestly, that's too sickly even for me but Lavender likes it, sweet tooth like you I reckon."
"She brushes her teeth with violet toothpaste," Ron said, recalling her distinctively flavoured kisses.
"She did ask me to try violet but it wasn't strong enough. Rhubarb overpowers everything but according to her it tastes even worse than the potion!"
"Well rhubarb with nothing to sweeten it George, that would be a bit harsh."
George conceded this with a nod before watching Ron scanning the shelves full of pleasant remedies. His eyes bulged at the sight of what looked like his eel-like knee support.
"What the...you invented this?"
George looked very pleased with himself.
"I did, though mine are only good for one day, if you needed a support for a whole month you'd need to buy thirty of them so I'm just selling them as a support for sports. Y'know, like something to wear to play Quidditch?"
"That's a great idea," Ron said as he examined the box, "but um...how come mine...?"
"Well St Mungo's have geniuses of their own don't they?" George smiled, "they had this incredible formula for living rubber that lasts for fifty odd years before it begins to perish. The material costs more than I could ever afford but they got a grant or something and spent it on gathering all the materials and tried out the formula on my invention. Works well enough doesn't it?"
"Yeah," Ron nodded before bending and flexing his leg in demonstration, "I never realised you designed it...or that it was that expensive."
George grinned and Ron felt he knew that it must have been Harry who donated the money to the Healers for their development project.
"So where were you on your way to then?" George asked.
"Oh um...I was just gonna...heading to..." Ron was pointing vaguely to the far end of the street before swinging his arm around in the opposite direction to point back the way he'd come, "The Leaky Cauldron!"
George folded his arms across his chest and looked smug.
"So you didn't come via the Leaky?"
"Well yeah, I was...just heading back."
"So you came and walked in here and now you're going back home?"
"No!" Ron said as if George was a fool for missing the point, "I'm going through to the Muggle side to meet up with a friend."
"So you weren't passing here at all then?" George grinned.
"I...Oh shut up!" Ron growled before stomping towards the door with the sound of George's laughter ringing in his ears.
"Oh come on Ronniekins, there's nothing wrong with just coming to see your brother, you don't have to make an excuse!"
"I have somewhere to be," Ron said as he pulled open the door.
"Well if you ever had nowhere to be...you're welcome to be here. Just so ya know, y'know?" George shrugged and then turned to beam at a browsing customer and begin his sales pitch as he waved goodbye to Ron.
"I'm really glad you rang," Milk man said as he pushed the largest cup of hot chocolate Ron had ever seen across the table towards him, "I was afraid I'd never hear from you again."
"Ta, yeah I'm sorry it was so..."
"Forget last time," Milk man said before picking up a small jug and holding it over Ron's drink, "milk?"
Ron's cheek twitched and then he let out a stifled laugh before the Milk man slumped into laughter in his chair and shook his head.
"You're never gonna be anything other than the Milk man to me, ever, you know that right?" Ron chuckled.
"It's all my own doing, I know. God I'm glad I didn't have peas written on my hand now!"
Ron snorted into his drink and got cream on his nose.
"The Pea man, oh that'd be brilliant!"
"No it wouldn't!"
"It'd suit you I think," Ron teased, looking at the Milk man's embarrassed face.
"Sod off you."
The laughter slowly died down and they both drank from their large cups before the silence became too much.
"So how are things with your Aunt, any better now your leg is stronger?" Milk man asked.
"Um," Ron looked down into his cup, chin on his chest, "Muriel died."
"Oh shit Ron, I'm sorry," Milk man's hand darted across the table and squeezed his, "was it...how was it?"
"It was ok, in her sleep," Ron looked up and tried to smile, "I came to wake her in the morning and she was gone."
"That's the best way to go I think, not for you, it must have been horrible to find her like that but...for her y'know?"
"So you've gone back to your Mum and Dad's place now?"
"No, I'm...Muriel left me the house."
"Wow, see she knew what your were doing for her and she appreciated it, that's really cool."
"Yeah," Ron looked into Milk man's eyes with sadness in his own, "thing is; now I'm even more alone."
"No you're not," milk man said firmly, "I'm here and I'm going to take you to...a very well lit and crowded, non-intimate place and we're going to have some fun."
"There's such a place as that?" Ron laughed, eyebrow cocked, quizzically.
"There are a few."
The cool air and morning sun finally broke through the wall of sleep around Ron and he cracked an eyelid open. The bed was warm and comfortable and he shifted his weight so he could roll over onto his side and see what time it was.
That was when he realised that the hand on his chest wasn't his own.
He swallowed and looked at the large manly hand, dark hairs on the back of it and writing in blue ink across from wrist to knuckle, and his chest tightened as he read the three letters.
Ron was frozen beneath the hand, not breathing and head screaming at him to remember how this could have happened, before he turned his head and followed the line from hand to wrist to elbow to shoulder and then looked at the face on the pillow beside him.
Harry stirred and made a contented humming sound before wriggling into Ron's side and pulling him into his warm body by tightening the arm around his chest.
"Mornin'" Harry murmured.
Ron was about to yelp out an exclamation of shock and joy when her felt soft skin against his other side and jerked his head around to see Hermione nestling her head of bushy hair into the crook of his neck.
"Missed you, missed this, don't get up," she sighed before moving her arm across to lay over Harry's.
"You're back. You're both back!" Ron said, eyes bulging, "When did this happen?"
Harry chuckled into Ron's side and Hermione opened her big brown eyes and stroked his face with the back of her hand.
"It was late and you were so peaceful," she sighed, "we didn't want to wake you."
Ron was about to speak when he felt Hermione's leg dragging up his and her foot pushing between them before sliding it down again, parting his legs and leaving her own sandwiched between them. Harry's hot wet mouth was devouring Ron's skin around his shoulder and along to his collarbone.
As Hermione's hand moved away from his face again Ron saw that she too had his name written on the back of her hand. He caught her about the wrist and held her hand still to examine it before finding his voice again.
"Why do you both have my name on the back of your hands?"
"To remind us," Harry said between kisses into the side of Ron's neck.
"Re-Remind you?" Ron quivered as Harry's kisses became more ravenous and Hermione's hand slipped under the sheets and down his narrow chest and flat stomach.
"The whole time we were working overtime, such long hours and miserable nights," Hermione said as she nibbled his earlobe, "we needed to be reminded what we were doing it all for."
"Who we were doing it for," Harry growled as he pulled himself up and kissed Ron on the lips.
"A constant reminder to keep going with double shifts and no sleep that all that mattered was that we got back to you as soon as possible," Hermione sighed as her fingers splayed and her hand slowly passed by his navel.
Ron closed his eyes and threw back his head with a moan of bliss. His body moved in reaction to every sensation and aching need for more.
"We heard you'd been hurt and gone to the hospital" Harry said as he ran his fingers through Ron's hair, "and we couldn't come back to be with you. Never...Never leave you alone again."
Harry moved to straddle Ron just as Hermione did the same behind him and smiled down at Ron over Harry's shoulder.
"Godric I missed you!" Ron gasped before Harry stole his words and his breath away with a kiss.
"Oh and Ron?" Hermione said as she wrapped her legs around both Harry and Ron's bodies, "Who is that man sleeping on your sofa downstairs?"
Harry broke the kiss and arched his eyebrows, expectantly.
"Ah," Ron said before grinning, "I think I might have broken that rule about letting Muggles know about our world."
"Oh ok!" Harry said, brightly before thrusting his tongue into Ron's mouth.
"I look forward to meeting him...afterwards," Hermione sighed before curling her arms around both her boys.
Ron grabbed hold of them and held on tight. He was full, he was complete, he was a whole again. And finally, he had arrived exactly where he always wanted to be, he was home.
A/N So a couple of you saw that one comming but I reckon most of you are going to be pretty shocked. Hope you're shocked in a good way!
Lots of thanks to my friend and beta Leviathan0999 for all his help.