Disclaimer: The characters contained herein are not mine. No money is being made from this fiction, which is presented for entertainment purposes only.
The long curtains hanging on either side of the window fluttered as a warm breeze blew into the flat.
Ron stared at them, perplexed.
"Harry," he called, "what are these?"
Harry's head poked out of the kitchen. "You mean the curtains?"
"Where'd they come from? Did you do this?"
"Yeah. Well, your mum helped." Harry eyed Ron a bit nervously. "Are they alright? I wanted ones with the emblem on them as well, but your mum said that'd be too tacky. But we can add it, if you want. The bloke at the shop told me the trick to get the spell to stick, so it won't peel off."
Ron blinked a moment before breaking into a grin. "I can't believe you talked my mum into orange curtains. You genius!"
Harry smiled back. "It wasn't too hard. She was thrilled that I asked for her help. She said she's been losing sleep since we sent her off last time."
"Harry, everything she brought over had frills on it!"
"I know, I know! But I had to let her think she'd helped, she kept saying we'd lose our minds, staring at four grey walls all the time."
"Why would we look at the walls when we've got a telly?"
"Hell if I know."
"Well, this is brilliant. She'll shut up about it, and we've got the greatest curtains I've ever seen."
Harry grinned. "Guess what else we've got."
Ron turned expectant eyes to Harry.
"She brought over some steak and kidney pie as well."
Ron forgot about the curtains.
Three butterbeers, two and a half servings of his mum's pie and a few hours of Muggle telly later, the lounge was dark and Ron was full and sleepy, sitting on the couch.
With a flick of his wand, the TV shut off, and he waited for Harry's usual complaint that it wasn't good for the Muggle electronics to cut them off magically and that, really, using the remote control to power it down properly wasn't all that much more work than using a wand, anyway.
But the usual litany didn't come.
Ron looked to his left, and saw that Harry had fallen asleep next to him. He gave a small chuckle and sighed, looking around the room as he tried to gather the energy necessary to stand up and go to bed.
His eyes scanned the walls, and he realised that his mum was right, they did have a bit of a four-grey-walls thing going on.
Not that he minded.
He loved this flat, and the life he and Harry lived in it.
It was the life they'd always imagined for themselves, wasn't it?
A life regularly filled with laughter and company, and just as regularly filled with quiet and space for the two of them to enjoy the freedom they'd earned for themselves.
It wasn't quite the life they'd imagined, of course.
There was a distinct lack of women in it.
Not women, generally.
Merlin knew there were plenty of those floating around, what with the aforementioned 'company' frequently consisting of a certain best friend and ex-girlfriend, a certain sister and ex-girlfriend, a rapidly expanding number of sisters-in-law, a mum, female school friends, Ginny's Harpies teammates, and any incalculable number of random women looking to have sex with The Chosen One or – possibly, occasionally – his best mate.
But none of the other kind.
The Significant kind.
Instead it was just the two of them, a couple of bachelors living together.
And that was OK.
Ron's eyes fell to the large window, where the newly applied Cannons emblems fluttered majestically.
The light was still on in the kitchen, casting a gentle glow into the room and onto the sofa, and Ron saw himself and Harry reflected in the dark glass.
It was more than OK, really.
It was fun, it was comfortable, it was incredibly satisfying, in a way.
He watched their reflections for a moment before he noticed that Harry had opened his eyes and was looking back at him.
Ron felt himself blush, though he didn't know why.
Harry smiled at him in the window, and Ron couldn't help but smile back.
"Ready for bed, then?" he asked.
Harry didn't respond, but cocked his head to the side a bit. The kitchen light glared off of his glasses, hiding his eyes.
Ron chuckled. "Well, I'm off."
Harry nodded and moved his head again so that the glare from his glasses disappeared.
And Ron's heart nearly stopped beating.
Harry's expression was different from any Ron had ever seen him wear before. His gaze was focused and pointed, but soft, and it almost looked like he –
Ron didn't know what it looked like exactly, but his body took notice of it as his heart skipped back to life and he licked his lips absentmindedly.
He blinked at Harry's reflection in silence for a moment.
"OK, mate?" he asked.
When Harry again didn't respond, Ron pulled his eyes from the window and turned to look at Harry properly.
But when he did, Harry's curious expression was gone.
Because Harry was still asleep.
Ron turned back to the window quickly, where Harry's reflection was still staring at him.
His head flew from side to side a few times.
Convinced that Harry wasn't having him on, he shook himself and looked back to the window cautiously, wondering if he'd gone mad.
The Harry in the window smiled kindly at him, and then sat forward, reached up and ran the back of his knuckle over Ron's jaw line softly.
Ron's hand flew up to his face.
He didn't feel anything.
Harry's reflection kept its eyes trained on Ron as it lay back, then closed them, resuming the form of Harry's actual reflection.
Ron jumped up from the couch and went to the window, examining the glass and frame closely.
"Ron?" Harry's sleepy voice came from behind him. "Y'alright? Whatime s'it?"
"Harry, is this window enchanted?"
"What?" Ron watched Harry's reflection rub his eyes.
"Do you know if it's enchanted? Have you ever seen it do anything magical?"
Brow creased from sleepiness and confusion, Harry's reflection met Ron's eye in the window. "Like what? Show the wrong weather or something?"
"Sure, or... reflect something that wasn't there?"
"Like an enchanted mirror?"
"No, I haven't."
"Hmm," Ron said, running his fingers along the seam where the glass met the window frame.
"What did you see?"
Ron swallowed. "I'm not sure. Was a bit blurry."
"Hmm," Harry said before breaking into a yawn. "Well, this is a Muggle flat, mate. So, unless you or I cast the enchantment, chances are pretty slim it's anything but a piece of glass."
Giving up his physical search of the window, Ron stepped back and observed it, examining the room's reflection in the glass.
It all looked perfectly normal.
"You sure you were awake? Maybe it was just a dream," Harry offered, pushing himself up off the couch.
"Must've been," Ron murmured, shaking his head. "Come take a quick look, though, do you see anything funny?"
Harry stepped next to Ron and observed the dark glass and their reflection in it.
"I just see us," he said, shrugging.
Ron watched their reflection as Harry yawned again and reached up to pat Ron's shoulder.
"Don't worry about it, Ron. Just get some sleep."
Feeling anything but sleepy now, Ron nodded as Harry Noxed the kitchen light, and they both headed down the hallway to their bedrooms.
Ron stumbled out of the Floo the following evening to find Harry sprawled out on the sofa, looking chipper as he perused the latest issue of Quidditch Quarterly.
"You know I hate you when I have to work on Saturday, right?" Ron said, pulling off his robes and tossing them onto a chair in the corner.
"You look awful, mate," Harry said, creasing his eyebrows. "Rough day?"
"Could say that," Ron mumbled. "We had a kid light a box of Whizbangs on the shelf. Set off a chain reaction, spent most of our fireworks stock. And singed the fur off an entire litter of Pygmy Puffs. Gotta sell 'em half-price, now."
"Was everyone OK?"
Ron nodded. "Worst part was I'd just stopped off at the sweet shop over lunch. A dozen Chocolate Frogs, all melted."
Harry clucked his tongue in sympathetic disappointment. "Were the cards alright, at least?"
Ron shook his head miserably. "All covered in chocolate." Harry winced. "I spelled them clean, but they're not the same. They're all rippled now."
"Sounds like you need to up the security in that place, mate."
Ron chuckled and gave a weary sigh. "You had supper yet?"
"No, but there's takeaway in the kitchen for both of us."
"You know I love you when I have to work on Saturday, right?"
An hour or so into the film Harry had picked out, Ron was struggling to keep his eyes open.
The attractive Muggle Auror-types were hot on the trail of someone Ron gathered was quite bad, but he must have dozed off during the part when it was explained what the bad guy had done, exactly.
An onscreen explosion took out some bloke's car, and Ron saw the flash reflected in the window.
The explosion turned out to be the first of several that came in quick succession, and Ron watched in the glass as the fire was reflected in Harry's glasses, flickering and twinkling against the dark sky.
He watched their reflection for a long moment, relieved that it was showing only what was actually there.
Until he realised that it actually wasn't.
Harry's arm was stretched along the back of the couch, several inches from Ron, as they sat fairly sprawled apart on the sofa.
But Harry's reflected arm was much, much closer.
In fact, Ron noticed, their entire bodies seemed much closer together.
Then he saw Harry's hand.
Sitting at the base of his neck, fingers hidden in Ron's hair.
Ron could make out just enough movement to understand that Harry was stroking his scalp.
He felt himself blink as his breath hitched.
He must have unconsciously leant into Harry's fingers, because his head was suddenly a bit off-balance and falling backwards, and he had to snap it upright quickly.
"Not falling asleep on me, are you?" Harry said, chuckling.
Ron smiled sheepishly as he looked at Harry, mentally noting the location of his fingers, which were very much not in Ron's hair. "Sorry."
"Don't feel obligated to stay up on my account. This film's pretty terrible, anyway."
"'S alright. I like it."
Harry chuckled again and turned his attention back to the screen, and Ron waited a moment before letting his eyes drift back to the window.
He was now looking at the back of his own head, as his reflected self was still looking at Harry.
The reflected Harry, too, was still staring at the reflected Ron, with the same expression he'd worn the night before.
Ron's heart picked up speed as he watched his own red head lean forwards and down, and Harry's eye drifted shut and their mouths came together, and Ron watched their lips slide against each other slowly.
He could just make out the movement of tongues and as he watched his own fingers reach up and brush Harry's temple before sliding back into his hair, Ron felt another part of his body react to what he was seeing.
A quivering heat began to rise from somewhere low inside him, and with a mouth dry from quick breathing, he jumped up from the sofa.
"Think I am going to head to bed," he said quickly, carefully keeping his pelvis turned away from Harry.
"OK. You alright?"
"Yup. Fine." Ron nodded very quickly.
"'K. See you in the morning, then."
"Yeah. Night, mate."
Ron awoke the next morning to discover that he'd apparently been too tired the night before to clean up after his frantic wank.
He muttered a cleaning charm in disgust and rolled out of bed, pulling on a t-shirt as he made his way to the bathroom.
He emerged into the lounge a few minutes later to find Hermione sitting on the sofa, alone.
"Good morning, Ron," she said cheerily.
"Morning," he said, looking around for signs of Harry.
"He got a call from the Department, had to Floo off for an emergency meeting," Hermione said.
"Gone all day, then?"
"Didn't know how long, when he left. But we figured you couldn't sleep all day, and I wanted to see you, so I told him I'd stay at least until you got up, to let you know."
"Excellent," he said. "Want some more tea?"
She handed him her empty mug with a smile. "Thanks."
"Nice new curtains, by the way," she said with a smirk when he returned from the kitchen moments later.
"I can't believe Harry let you do that."
Ron grinned. "Harry's idea, actually. And he even managed to convince my mum it was hers, so it's all above board."
Hermione snorted and Ron admired the curtains for a moment more, until his eyes drifted to the glass.
The window was bright and clear.
"Hermione," he said, "what do you know about reflections?"
"Reflections of what?"
"Of anything. Why would ... what would cause glass to reflect something that wasn't actually there?"
"You mean enchanted glass?"
"No. Well, maybe, but I don't think so. Barring enchantment. Just regular, plain glass."
Hermione frowned. "Well, if the glass wasn't perfectly flat, the reflection would be refracted. That would make it look bigger or smaller or just distorted. But it would still only reflect what was actually there."
Ron chewed on his lower lip. "Could it be anything like... You know how there are Muggle and Wizard photographs? And how Muggle photographs just sit still while Wizard photographs move? Could there be anything like that, where a reflection might take on a bit of a life of its own?"
"Only if it's enchanted," Hermione said. She looked back and forth along the line of Ron's gaze. "Have you seen something in the window, Ron?"
Ron blushed and shrugged. "No. I don't think so. Nothing interesting anyway."
Hermione crinkled her brow and got up from the sofa, pulling out her wand as she approached the window. She did a few revealing spells, and Ron choked on his tea when it occurred to him that she might be able to bring up the images that he'd seen the night before.
Before he could get words out to stop her, though, she turned back to him.
"There's nothing here, Ron. No enchantments that I can find. There could be something I'm not thinking of, though. It would help to know what you've seen."
Her words were covered a bit by the sound of the fireplace roaring to life, and Harry came tumbling through the Floo.
"Harry!" Ron cried, much too enthusiastically. "You're back!"
"Hey," he said, with an amused chuckle. "You're up. Less of an emergency than they thought, turns out I'm not needed."
"What happened?" Ron asked, hoping to distract Hermione from asking any further questions.
But Harry had already looked to Hermione, who was still standing by the window with her wand out.
"The window again, eh? Have you seen something else then, Ron?"
"Not really," he said, shaking his head. "I'm just being stupid, don't worry."
"It must be enchanted. Did you see someone who wasn't here? Like someone trying to get in touch with you?"
"No, no. Only ever the two of us."
"So, what? Our own Mirror of Erised, then?"
Ron blinked as a small implosion took place somewhere in the vicinity of his stomach.
He opened his mouth to assure Harry that nothing he'd seen in the glass was something he secretly desired.
The visions were just surprising and confusing and, yeah, a little arousing, but nothing to be worried about.
But his brain didn't seem up to the task of forming words.
Which was just as well, as neither Harry nor Hermione seemed to have thought Harry's remark at all odd.
Flustered, Ron managed to choke out an excuse about needing a shower and fled the room.
He stood with his head directly under the hot spray, feeling the rivulets of heat pour down through his hair, over his neck, chest and back until water started leaking into his mouth and nostrils.
He stepped back so that the spray hit his chest as he wiped off his face. He sighed and tried to work out why he'd overreacted.
It wasn't as though Harry had been right.
It wasn't as though Ron wanted what he'd seen in the glass the past two nights.
He picked up the bar of soap, worked it between his palms and began running his hands over his body.
And then he realised that that's exactly what it was.
His hands froze where they were, the right one mid-way down his stomach.
Of course he wanted Harry.
And although his brain had only just stumbled upon this idea, his body had apparently been familiar with it for some time, judging by its swift and sure response.
He closed his eyes as water continued to pour over him and his hand resumed its downwards course.
The plan for keeping it a secret was simple.
He'd just never tell Harry.
And he'd never look at the damn window again.
And the plan worked.
He didn't say anything more about it, and eventually Harry and Hermione stopped asking, presumably convinced he'd merely imagined it.
And he never looked at the damn window again.
For a while.
Problem was, he couldn't not look.
In just those two days, he'd become addicted to it.
He couldn't not look because he loved the way the reflected Harry looked at him, smiled at him, and touched him.
Even when they weren't alone, even with friends or family over, reflected in the glass as well, the reflected Harry wouldn't quite behave, running his fingers over Ron's shoulders as he walked by or sitting too close so he could rub against him mischievously.
The reflected Harry was constantly sparkling, as light reflected off his glasses or his bottle of beer or the clasp of his cloak as he removed it, sending glints of Harry to pass through the living room and, later each night without fail, through Ron's dreams like fucking shooting stars.
He couldn't not look as unknown magic continued to weave life into this glittering, seductive tapestry that he yearned to pull down from the wall and wrap himself up in.
He couldn't not look.
He had to look because the pair in the glass bloody well started having sex.
On the sofa.
The first time it happened, Harry almost found out.
They were sitting on the couch, Harry reading the day's Prophet, and Ron ostensibly perusing the pages of Quidditch Quarterly, as he watched both reflected periodicals be tossed aside.
The reflected Harry crawled across the sofa cushions and overtop of the reflected Ron, and Ron watched as clothing was removed and hands explored skin and bodies writhed in time together.
It was a miracle he managed to keep his own, actual body from writhing along with them, and lucky that he already had a pillow sitting on his lap, which he'd used to prop up the magazine.
He blushed, and felt ashamed at his inability to avert his eyes, unsure of what sort of deviant it made him, that he enjoyed watching himself like this.
He could hear the soundless cries the pair emitted as they frotted to climax, and he stared in a haze of lust and confusion as they collapsed onto one another.
"Penny for your thoughts?" came Harry's amused voice.
Ron turned to look at him quickly, at the real Harry right next to him, and felt a surge of something hot in his chest at the small, curious smile Harry wore.
It was all he could do not to reach out and grab Harry's jumper, to pull him close.
His lips actually twitched with their desire to taste Harry's.
Harry's smile faded as he took in Ron's gaze, and his eyebrows contracted in concern.
"You alright?" Harry asked, searching Ron's face as though he'd never seen it before.
Ron tore his eyes away, looking down to the magazine on his lap.
He took a deep breath as one of the Quidditch players on the page raised a knowing eyebrow at him.
Ron stared at the men in his magazine another moment, filling his mind with Quidditch trivia until he finally felt steady enough to look back at Harry, who had set down the newspaper and sat forward in his seat, directing all his attentions at Ron.
Ron smiled, hoping it appeared he did so easily. "Sorry, mate," he said. "What was that? A penny?"
Harry shook his head. "Just an expression. Are you OK?"
"Yeah, fine. Just reading about this year's outlook. Same as always." He gave a resigned sigh.
Harry stared at him, still searching his face. Ron met his gaze for a long moment and did his best to look unconcerned and down about the Cannons.
Finally, Harry gave a sympathetic chuckle. "You think it'll ever change?"
Ron's smile was real this time. "'Course I do, mate. Every year."
After that, Ron was careful not to look at the real Harry when he found himself lost in the window.
He meticulously kept his eyes on the glass, or the table, or the floor, or the telly, until the surge had passed and he could look at Harry, his best mate, without giving anything away.
But he couldn't stop watching.
Days, weeks, months passed, and still he watched the glass and the shadows that steadily demonstrated a different life.
A life so similar to his own, but so, so different.
He knew that he should find a way to make these visions stop, but he found he couldn't bear the thought of it.
When he let himself get lost in them, all his worries fell away, and he and Harry were safe and happy, and home.
And it wasn't like he thought the visions were real or anything.
So there was no harm in it.
Until he started getting confused.
Until he found himself reaching out for Harry's hand to give it an affectionate squeeze when he brought home supper.
Found himself moving to snuggle up against Harry as they settled onto the sofa for the evening.
Found himself ready to follow Harry into his bedroom instead of proceeding into his own.
He usually managed to stop himself in time, to pass it off as a reach across the table or a loss of balance in his attempt to get comfortable on the sofa.
Harry's birthday party was the worst.
It had been a long, hot July, and both Harry and Ron had been wearing less clothing around the flat than usual, which meant that the reflected Harry and Ron were much hornier than usual, and had the advantage of being unaffected by the heat, what with not bearing the burden of physical form.
Which meant that the real Ron was even more frustrated than usual.
And then all their friends came over to the flat, and Harry spent the evening looking embarrassed and overwhelmed and heartbreakingly adorable because even after all these years, this kind of attention was hard for him to accept.
And the reflected Harry had too much to drink and kept touching the reflected Ron inappropriately.
And after everyone had left, and Ron had seen George Floo home with a giggling Hermione who swore up and down that she'd be back in the morning to help clean up, despite Ron's assurances that it wasn't necessary, he turned around to find Harry standing in the opposite corner of the room, wobbling and holding on to the back of one of the extra chairs they'd set out.
"Thank you for the party, Ron," he said, deliberately, concentrating on getting the words to come out right. He flashed the best smile he was capable of, at the moment.
Ron stalked towards him, intent on devouring those intoxicating intoxicated lips now that they were alone.
He was less than a foot from Harry when a breeze blew in through the window and set the orange curtains billowing, and he remembered that this was the real, not the reflected, Harry.
His passionate snog was not-so-masterfully transfigured into a full body bear hug at the last moment, but luckily Harry's intoxication seemed to keep him from noticing anything strange.
He pulled Harry's slight frame as close as he could, burying his nose in messy black hair, taking advantage of Harry's haze.
"Happy Birthday, Harry," he whispered.
Harry's arms wrapped around Ron's waist. "Thanks. Such a good mate, you are."
The swell in Ron's chest and catch in his throat distracted him, for a moment, from the suddenly heavy weight against him when Harry fell asleep.
He groaned and leant against Harry a bit, balancing their weights as he tried to work out when he'd become so sick of the bloody shadows.
The day Ron lost his mind was a relatively normal day, all things considered. A really good day, actually, until it happened.
His mum had Flooed the night before to say that Bill and Fleur would be visiting the Burrow, and would Harry and Ron like to stop by as well, if they had the time?
It was a Saturday which, by some miracle, Ron didn't have to work, so they took Teddy for the day and went for a visit.
The air had been cooler, lately, and the days shorter, but that day was something special, a taste of Indian summer.
So they were easily sold when the idea of taking Teddy and Victoire up to the paddock for their first broomstick flights was suggested.
That was Ron's first mistake.
Watching Harry fly had always been one of Ron's favourite things to do, although he'd only recently figured out why.
It was the look on Harry's face as he shot up off the ground, the unbridled happiness and freedom so evident there. Each and every time, he was eleven all over again, discovering not only the joys of the wizarding world denied Muggle children, but the possibilities of childhood itself.
That was part of the reason.
The other part was that Harry was sexy as hell as soon as he mounted his broomstick.
He stretched out over it, and his strong thighs gripped at the shaft beneath him. So focused, so determined.
So fucking erotic it ought to have been criminal.
And that day, oh, that day. His flying that day took things to an entirely new level.
Ron was beginning to feel persecuted, as he watched Harry dart around the paddock, smiling against the unclouded blue behind him, with sunlight glinting off of him.
He fucking sparkled as he darted in and out of the yellow leaves, making Teddy squeal. Sparkled. Like some sort of sexy, broomstick-straddling Christmas tree.
The sun poured over him, gleaming off of his glasses, glittering off the beads of sweat on his temples, flaming over the bold forearms that strained as he turned the broom and held Teddy safely to him.
Even his hair, which had only ever glowed an almost-blue in the right light, was shining like some sort of beacon.
He was practically a ball of light, some sort of enchantment, instead of a bloke on a broomstick.
A really fit bloke, doting adorably on his godson, as they whipped around the paddock.
It was fucking poetic.
"Uncle Ron! Uncle Ron! Do it right! You're not doing it right, you're going so slow."
Ron looked down at the four-year-old child sitting in front of him, whose small hand was insistently patting the forearm that encircled her waist and chest.
"Sorry," he mumbled, wondering just how long they'd hovered in place as he ogled Harry.
"C'mon, Uncle Ron, look! Teddy's getting a much better ride. Please! Go faster!"
Tilting his broom-hand down, Ron obliged, giving her a few good dips and twirls and eliciting a number of excited squeals, but on a good day he wasn't as fast as Harry, and Victoire seemed to have noticed.
They hadn't quite landed when she started wriggling out of his grasp, eager to catch up with Harry and Teddy, who were already on the ground.
"Wait!" she called. "Wait! I want a ride with you now! You're so much faster!"
"I'm not really faster, Victoire, it just looked that way."
"No, she's right, Harry," Ron said. "I've got these broad, manly shoulders that create drag. You're much more aerodynamic, what with the whole skinny midget thing you've got going on."
Harry shot Ron an annoyed look, but chuckled as he rolled his eyes.
"Please?" Victoire insisted. "Please, Uncle Harry? Just a short one, I just want to go really fast!"
Harry looked down to Victoire, and his cheeks coloured a bit.
"Oh, Victoire, I'm not –"
"C'mon, Uncle Harry," Ron interrupted, smiling, "give the poor girl a quick spin."
Harry stared at Ron a moment, then back at Victoire, before smiling.
"Alright," he said, "just a quick one."
Ron beamed at him as the pair turned back to the open paddock.
"So, Teddy," Ron said, plopping himself down on the grass and patting the spot next to him, "who's your Quidditch team?"
It was only with a great deal of effort that Ron was able to focus on his conversation with Teddy, and not stare in awed wonder at the man on the broomstick overhead.
The sun hung heavily in the sky by the time they returned to their flat, and Ron sat on the couch as its warm, red rays poured in through the large window.
Harry was in the shower, and Ron nursed a butterbeer as he waited his turn, trying not to dwell on the images of Harry from that afternoon, and trying even harder not to dwell on the new imagined ones – of Harry in the shower.
Caught up as he was in all that he shouldn't have been thinking about, Ron didn't hear the shower shut off, and so when Harry walked into the lounge soaking wet, wearing nothing but a towel, he was completely unprepared.
His mouth was instantly dry as water dripped from the tips of coal-black hair and that iconic brow glowed, bathed as it was in sunlight.
Harry must have been saying something, must have been talking, because there wasn't any other reason that Ron could work out for him to stop right there, for him to stand in the sunlight, soaking wet, as Ron sat frozen on the sofa, willing himself not to pass out.
Ron's expression must have been wretched, because by the time Harry's voice broke through, he was asking if Ron was alright.
Ron stared down at Harry's feet as he took another step.
There were several scrapes on his shins, marks from the Burrow's trees.
He wondered if they stung, and he heard Harry asking again if he was alright, and Ron looked up at his face.
And that was his second mistake.
Because that was when it happened.
Harry's last step had brought him full into line with the window, and there was a flash, like a spell, only bigger, as he stood in front of the glass.
The sunlight hit him and glinted through his glasses, off his dripping hair, off the water droplets covering his shoulders and arms.
And he had this look on his face.
He was just concerned, of course, for his best mate, who must have looked like his brain had just dribbled out of his ears, but that's not what Ron saw.
Orange curtains were billowing on either side of Harry as he sparkled and, if Ron had been just a little bit smarter, he would have taken a moment to work out if it was real. But he wasn't any smarter, and he had already put up with far too much.
He left the couch, and crossed the room in three paces.
And in the moment it took for him to get there, he looked at Harry.
And Harry looked back.
And in an instant, he knew.
Ron could see it. Harry knew.
The smell of soap and of Harry was strong in his nostrils, and the feel of Harry's lips beneath his was surprisingly warm and real.
Harry gasped and stumbled back a bit, and Ron stepped forwards to keep their bodies close.
His lips moved of their own accord, and he feasted on the feel of Harry's hot, gasping breaths and the taste of Harry's tongue when his own slipped in and found it.
His hands had found Harry's arms and his fingers gripped at wet biceps.
Something nudged at him from inside his brain, but he didn't notice it.
His mouth continued to move over Harry's, hungry and intent on devouring its fill.
He couldn't have stopped if he'd wanted to, even when he realised that Harry wasn't kissing him back.
Harry wasn't struggling, or pulling away, even as he continued to take stumbling steps backwards, which Ron matched.
His mouth was open and he was certainly allowing himself to be kissed as Ron stroked his tongue and sucked on his bottom lip.
But he wasn't kissing back.
Harry took yet another stumbling reverse step, and Ron stepped forward a bit too quickly, and the jolt of Harry falling against the window startled Ron away from him.
His mouth left Harry's, and he stared a moment at the window, trying to make sense of it.
Trying to make sense of the bright, clear glass, and the very real Harry taking up very real space between it and his own body.
Then he saw the crack.
The fresh, long thread cutting through the glass, where Harry's shoulders had hit it.
"Harry!" he gasped, bringing his fingers to the mark. "Are you alright?"
Harry stared a long moment, looking startled and winded and completely confused, before nodding.
"You're sure? You're not cut?"
Harry shook his head slowly as he continued to stare at Ron, his brow creased, and breathing heavy.
"'M fine," he whispered. His jaw seemed to work an awful lot before he was finally able to say, "Ron?"
Ron's entire body suddenly hurt.
He'd done it.
He'd really fucking done it.
He'd ruined everything.
"Oh, fuck," he whispered, before Disapparating.
He sat in the tall grass along the stream and watched the wind agitate the yellow woods.
He watched the leaves fall to the ground and to the water.
He watched them float away, past the small boat that was tied beneath the willow downstream.
He remembered being six years old and climbing into that boat all alone, determined to find out what lay at the end of the stream.
He'd made it about a hundred yards before the boat seemed to pick up speed and the water seemed to deepen, and images of his little boat being swept out to sea at the mouth of a large river flooded his mind, and he was sure that he'd sentenced himself to death by starvation, in his tiny boat, adrift at sea.
He'd managed to abandon ship pretty quickly, had waded back to shore through water that wasn't actually any deeper than the water behind his house, and made it home in time for supper.
He'd helped his father retrieve the boat later that same evening – it hadn't made it much further than he had before it had beached itself – and had gone to bed feeling safe and secure, a little bit silly and a little bit regretful.
He stared, now, at the boat, and entertained the idea of climbing into it once again, and abandoning himself to the current, and to whatever lay at the end of it.
When his glassy, sightless gaze down the stream had become a squint, he realised that night had fallen.
He lay back in the grass and stared instead at the sky, waiting and watching as the stars began to reveal themselves.
His old, thin t-shirt rippled in the breeze as leaves fell onto him, and through the noises of the night, he lay there, astounded at how many different stars he could connect into lightening-bolt shaped constellations.
He swallowed and tried to imagine what his life would be like now.
A life without Harry in it.
His body sagged deeper into the ground and he felt the blood in his veins cool and slow.
Ron didn't know how long he'd lain there, staring at the wholly darkened sky, when he finally sat up and looked back to the house.
When he did, his body seemed to war with itself, as a shot of adrenaline set his heart pounding, but his heavy, sluggish blood refused to move any faster, terrified of what was about to happen.
Because there, beneath his tower bedroom, walking past the garden, he saw the pale, gleaming shape of Harry.
And for all he looked like the Harry in the window, this was the real one, the Harry Ron had assaulted earlier that evening.
All he could hope for was that Harry would be kind and say what he had come to say quickly.
Ron averted his eyes and stared at the grass as Harry approached.
"Been out here all night?"
"Your mum said it looked like you were some sort of trance." Harry sounded nervous. "I'm sure Trelawney would be proud."
Ron's eyebrows contracted.
Harry sighed and sat down next to Ron.
A deafening silence hung over them, drowning out the sounds of the wind and the cicadas.
Harry sighed again, more forcefully, and Ron closed his eyes.
"Since when?" Harry finally said.
"You never said."
"Wasn't going to."
"To avoid this very conversation." He felt something hard begin to rise in his throat. "Just say it, Harry, OK? Do you want me to move out? Or have you already made plans?"
Ron was still staring at the grass, but he felt Harry's gaze find his burning cheeks. "Whatever you want is fine," he continued. "I know I've ruined everything."
"I'm not going anywhere," Harry said after a moment.
Ron swallowed and nodded. "OK. I'll stay here tonight and clean my things out of the flat sometime this week. I can stay here until I figure something else out."
Harry stared at him.
Ron kept his gaze on the ground and tried not to count the agonising moments that passed.
"What have you ruined?" Harry asked.
Ron blinked and frowned.
Words for what it was, for what Harry was to him, fluttered about in his head, each too small and inadequate. The one that did it justice was somewhere out of reach, like a Snitch he'd never be fast enough to catch.
"Us," he finally managed.
Harry's eyes seemed to burn a hole in the side of Ron's head. "You fucking prat," he whispered, and Ron thought he might be sick.
"How could you think that … that I would want…" As Harry stumbled over his words, Ron felt the corners of his eyes begin to prickle. He blinked and clenched his jaw and struggled to breathe evenly through a throat that seemed to have sealed off.
He stared at the grass as he wrestled with his composure. He pinched a blade of it and slid his fingertips up to the end, feeling it slide roughly between them.
"Ron, I could never … I wouldn't …" Harry stopped and gave a deep, steadying sigh. "I'm not going anywhere. And neither are you. Always. I mean, never. I mean, oh fuck." He paused and swallowed. "You haven't ruined anything, Ron, and you wouldn't have, even if I hadn't liked it when you kissed me."
Ron felt his heart stall, for a moment. The breath in his lungs seemed to quiver.
He brought his eyes up from the grass, but couldn't bring them to Harry.
He looked instead up to the rustling leaves, grey without the sun.
He watched them shiver as his mind turned round in circles, running back and forth over what Harry had just said.
"I'm sorry," he finally managed, as he turned his face, but not his eyes, to Harry, "but there was an awful lot of 'if' and 'would' and 'not' in there, and could you maybe say that again, but with fewer words?"
His eyes finally flicked up to meet Harry's, and a jolt of something he dared not recognise coursed through him.
The look on Harry's face, the lovely hunger there, caressed Ron's heart back to beating.
"Yeah," Harry said, "I can," and a shiver ran up Ron's spine as he resolved never to close his eyes again.
He did, though, when Harry kissed him.
Ron was awake for a moment or two before he opened his eyes.
He felt the arm of the couch at his back, and there was a solid warmth pressed against his chest. His hand was draped over something that was rhythmically rising and falling.
He smiled and buried his nose in Harry's hair.
Harry's fingers pressed affectionately against the hand on his chest.
"You awake, then?" Harry said, laying his head back on Ron's shoulder.
"Mmmhmmm," Ron murmured. "Was I asleep long?"
"Not really. I only turned the telly off a few minutes ago."
"Mmm." Ron straightened up a bit, so he could slip both of his arms around Harry's waist and rest his chin on his shoulder.
His eyes drifted around the room and came to rest on the floor, where a colourful piece of material now covered a large section of the wood.
"You know," Ron said, "I rather like our new rug."
"Your Mum is not gonna think that's funny," Harry said, sounding resigned.
"Probably not, but I do. I don't care if she says it's a tablecloth, it's not going anywhere near my food, thank you very much. I can't believe you let her leave that here. I'm never leaving you home alone again."
Harry clucked his tongue. "Apparently it was quite stylish around the time Bill was born."
"Yeah, well, Bill's old, in case you hadn't noticed."
Ron grinned as Harry chuckled, and he lifted his gaze to the window, where he met Harry's eye in the reflection.
Harry's laugh quieted into a contented smile, and he tilted his head against Ron's.
"I was watching us," he said, "while you were sleeping."
Ron raised an eyebrow. "Were you?"
Harry nodded. "I could sit here and watch us all night."
Ron held Harry's gaze in the reflection for a moment before turning his head to look directly at him.
Harry turned, too, and met Ron's eye with a smile.
"Don't do that," Ron said. He leant forward and placed a soft but insistent kiss on Harry's lips. "Stay here with me instead."
Harry pulled back and gave Ron a curious frown.
Ron smiled and brought a hand Harry's face. He ran his thumb over Harry's cheekbone, and then over his lips.
"Stay here where I can feel you," he whispered.
He brought his mouth to Harry's again, and wallowed in the soft warmth of Harry's lips, the moist heat of Harry's breath, and the delicious wetness of Harry's tongue.
Harry forgot about the window.