Written for the Harry/Ron Fuh Q Fest at the HarryandRon community on Livejournal, with this prompt: Ron finds Harry has a Pensieve and dives into his thoughts.
Warnings: Profanity, some mentioned past unrequited love, fluff (yes, it deserve the warning! Beware!)
Disclaimer: I am not a) JK Rowling, b) making money off this, c) rich enough to sue, d) all of the above.
A thousand thanks to Cat for the marvelous beta job!
"What did you see?"
Harry stands by the door, one hand propping himself up on the door frame. He asks again, and his voice comes out a little bit more steadily this time. Though by the way his face is completely drained of colour, Ron suspects he didn't even need to ask once.
"Why is there a Pensieve in your office?" Ron knows it sounds stupid, knows it's not the answer, but he doesn't quite know how to put that into words yet.
Harry releases the door frame and slumps into the office, and Ron lets out his breath.
"It's for going over case evidence, you berk. Right boring, but then this kind of stuff always gets delegated to junior Aurors. If you'd been at the meeting you'd know," he offers.
Ron studiously avoids looking at the small collection of tiny bottles next to the Pensieve, the contents of one of them still swirling within.
"But this isn't case evidence." It doesn't come out as a question. Ron knows he should have apologized somewhere in there, had meant to even before he fell up out of the last memory and saw Harry's drained face, but now the moment has passed and he's not even sure if he should be apologizing. It was so personal, what he had seen, but he thinks it concerns him too, only he can't quite be sure and doesn't want to be wrong about this.
"No," says Harry, one word.
A lump forms somewhere between Ron's chest and his throat.
"Why were you, with...all this..." He doesn't finish the sentence, unsure of where it was leading in the first place.
"Just needed to think. Get some things off my mind. Literally." Harry chuckles humourlessly.
The lump rises in Ron's throat and he suddenly wants to walk over and gather Harry in his arms and hold him tight until that cynicism cracks and is gone, and then maybe a little longer just to be sure. Harry looks so alone on his side of the room.
But Ron doesn't do this, because as stupid as it sounds, he doesn't know how, and he knows he'd bollix it up anyway.
"Ah. I see. Well then," he says, because this is something Ron knows how to say, and as he leaves the office he rests his hand on Harry's shoulder for a second because that's something else he knows how to do, and he wants to besides, and Harry looks so alone.
"Good luck on those cases. I'll go see if I can find someone to catch me up on that meeting." Which is stupid, because Harry went to the meeting and is right here, but Ron feels like he's been standing in the doorway too long. "Still up for tea at the Burrow tomorrow?"
Harry nods and smiles gratefully at Ron, and Ron feels relieved, like he's just escaped mucking hings up for once, and also perturbed, because he feels like that somehow isn't the way things should have gone.
But tomorrow is Saturday and Harry has agreed to come to tea (like he always does) and Ron is aware that everything will be fine between them by then, back to the way it always has been. Harry's smile tells him that it will be, but there's something in his eyes, something in the way neither of them looked at the Pensieve during the entire stilted conversation, that tells Ron something else.
It bothers Ron that he can't find a word for it.
Ron goes home to his too-cramped (outgrown but better than nothing) room at the Burrow, and he can't stop playing that conversation over in his head; revisiting the half a dozen fragmentary memories that he had seen before Harry came in, trying to look for the flaw. There had to be one, the one place where one tiny difference would have changed the entire outcome. Some way to avoid the inevitability of the stalemate.
It gets drowned out a bit during dinner, and eventually Ron grows sleepy and other things start mixing in, and then he falls asleep and the same chain of thoughts rolls its themes endlessly in his dreams. Ron lets it; he could be patient, and the answer always comes when you aren't directly looking at it, and never the first time you ask the question either. He could be patient.
In the morning, there's still no answer, and Ron is vaguely surprised, but there is something, and he seizes on that. It's the way the office looked before Harry walked in, and besides the six tiny bottles sitting next to the Pensieve, Ron's mind supplies an image of a drawer that is ajar and in its depths, a dull glimmer and a rolling clink when his shin bangs against it accidentally.
Ron takes the unprecedented move of proclaiming at breakfast that he has things to finish up at work and he will see them all in a little while, or at lunch at the very latest, and disappears into the Floo with a cheerful goodbye and a shedding of toast crumbs.
His feet carry him easily through the echoing Ministry and to Harry's office and its closed door. It's warded, naturally, but the password turns out to be Weasley Is Our King, so Ron gets in easily. It's something he and Harry joked about when they were brand new and just getting offices, but he hadn't thought the prat would actually go and do it. It makes Ron smile.
The Pensieve has been stowed away, but Ron finds it after little searching – there's not many places to hide something in an office this small – and he finds the rest of the bottles, too, right where he half-remembers them being.
Now that he has so much time on his hands, he's able to take them out and see that they're all labelled by date. The ones he saw weren't the first, so he reaches for the one that is, and pours the pearly liquid into the stone basin.
He watches it, and then the next one, and the next.
A pattern begins to emerge after a while. The memories are happy and sad, from the war and from Hogwarts and from after, and most of them are just snippets that don't seem to be about anything at all. But they all have Ron in them.
And standing inside Harry's own memories, Ron can see things he never could have seen; things that he should have seen.
The way Harry's eyes invariably followed him when he walked out of a room, for example, necessarily always escaped Ron's notice. Similarly unknowable was the way Harry had stayed awake and watched Ron sleep, that night in the tent. Ron goes through that one twice, just to see the expression on Harry's face again.
The way Harry would still be smiling for hours after Ron had told a funny story, though, Ron could have noticed, should have, but hadn't. And then he saw the way looking at Harry smiling seemed to make Ron smile too, and he wondered if that was any excuse. He sees how many memories of hugs there were – approximately every one ever, Ron thinks, and he has never realized just how many that was – and of looks that last longer than ordinary, and words Ron can't specifically remember saying because they've always come so naturally. It was as though Harry was looking for something, sifting so methodically through all that made up their friendship, and Ron wonders if Harry's found it yet. He wonders also if it's possible for Harry to find it if Ron didn't even know he was looking.
Stupid, he thinks, a bit fondly and tinged with regret, stupid, and he doesn't exactly know if that's supposed to be his opinion of himself or Harry or both. Or of the entire situation, maybe.
Ron checks his watch and there's still time left before lunch, so he reaches for the last tiny bottle and decants it and sticks his head under the surface even though he doesn't really need any more to see what this all means now. This one doesn't have a date on it (only the letters TTHKLBAIAWG, which Ron spent a good few minutes trying to puzzle out into a word before he finally gave it up as a lost cause), but it was in the very back of the drawer and covered with a very fine film of dust. Ron is suddenly sure that Harry has never looked at this one since he took it out, and his curiosity is piqued.
Ron falls and finds himself in the Gryffindor common room, and a quick glance at the faces of its occupants makes him think that this is fifth, maybe sixth year. Then he sees Harry's face and follows his gaze, and that confirms it: sixth year, then. Ron and Lavender Brown are entwined together in a single armchair, and the sounds emanating from their jumbled cluster of limbs resemble nothing so much as a particularly tenacious clog being removed from a particularly slimy drain.
Ron winces. He knew that they were bad, and shameless, yes, but not this bad. He winces again as there is a particularly loud sucking sound, and feels suddenly and violently guilty for making Harry go through this. They both know that it didn't mean anything in the end, but still. This kind of terror should be visited on no one, and the way Harry was looking at them (with a sort of sick fascination) only made it worse.
At long last memory-Ron tore himself away from Lavender with the loudest squelching sound yet, saying something about time for bed, and Harry tore his eyes away from Ron.
"Disgusting," says a voice over Ron's shoulder, and Ron turns to see a younger version of his sister shaking her head sadly.
Harry turns to her looking a bit dazed and – blushing slightly? Ron takes advantage of his position as an invisible third party in the memory and goes to look closer, and yes, Harry is a bit redder than usual around the cheeks and near the collar.
"Yeah," says Harry, a bit too sincerely. "Absolutely repulsive. Don't know how he stands her."
"Oh, I wasn't talking about Lavender," Ginny says, perching on the arm of Harry's chair. "I almost feel sorry for her, really. To be snogged by that beast who calls himself my brother..." Ginny shivers theatrically. "I'm honestly ashamed to be related to him; kissing a mountain troll must be better... Could he get worse if he tried?"
"I'm sure kissing Ron would be much better than kissing a mountain troll; don't be ridiculous." Harry's voice is again a bit too sincere and there is a bit too much colour in his face.
Ginny eyes Harry sceptically. "'Sure'?"
"Yeah," says Harry hotly, and Ron suddenly realizes that that must have been what he had been doing: imagining what it would be like to be in Lavender's place. "He probably just needs a bit more practice is all, and he'd be brilliant," Harry says in the face of Ginny's continued silence, and her eyebrow arches dangerously high.
"Whatever – I certainly don't care what it's like to snog my brother. I'm just saying." She speaks flippantly, but the hint of a challenge in her voice is unmistakable.
"I don't care what it's like either," Harry says, and Ron can see how his eyes unconsciously wander to where memory-Ron is going up the boys' staircase. "You're just not being fair to him, that's all. If he had someone else -"
Harry breaks off, and Ron is struck by the way he looks in this moment: so full of righteous indignation, and underneath it there are glimpses of a vulnerability that Ron now knows to look for. He reaches out a hand, knowing he cannot touch this memory-Harry, but wanting to nevertheless, and Ginny opens her mouth to deliver some sharp retort.
But whatever Ginny had had to say to this is cut off by a sudden pain in Ron's scalp, and he hurtles out of the memory and into his body, and Harry (not memory-Harry this time; real Harry) is standing in front of him looking very angry indeed. His hand is still in Ron's hair, and it is still pulling painfully, but Ron still can't shake his urge to touch him. He raises his arm to do so and Harry bats his hand away, looking betrayed and angry.
"How many did you see? All of them?"
Ron nods, as best he can. "You're hurting my head."
Harry huffs but lets Ron's hair go. Ron massages his scalp warily and does not reach to touch Harry again.
"Why did you have to do it? You weren't supposed to see the bloody things, no one was. They're private." Harry looks more hurt than angry now, and Ron has to clench his fist at his side to keep from moving it.
Ron opens his mouth, but Harry goes on.
"Now you'll think the wrong thing, and it would have been fine if I had just had time; I was almost done and it was all going to be fine." His words are a torrent that cannot be stopped, though Ron wants to stop them more the longer they go on. "It was all in my head, can't you see? You didn't do anything; it was all me, I made it up and what's our friendship worth now that you've seen it? And I was going to put it aside after I just had it sorted out, because just needed to know for once what was real and what wasn't. Dumbledore said Pensieves are good for that. And then you had to go and look and nothing will be the same, everything's ruined."
"Harry," Ron says, finding his words at last when Harry pauses to take breath. "It's – nothing's ruined, ok? I've been the stupid one. And I'm sorry for going through your things," there, the apology at last, "but they were lying right there, in the open" and there he goes and bollixes it up, "and I had to see. I should have seen it a long time ago, but I'm just stupid like that, aren't I?"
"You're not stupid," Harry says, grudgingly, looking at Ron's shoes.
"Yes I am, I'm bloody fucking stupid. I needed a fucking Pensieve and years and years of memories before I could see what was fucking right in front of me." Ron knows his voice is getting loud, and knows he's swearing too much or at least without enough creativity, but he doesn't care.
"So, you..." Harry sounds immensely unsure, and he still looks so alone, but there is hope on the very edges of his voice now.
"Yes, I bloody do." Ron doesn't exactly know how he was planning on finishing that sentence, so he just leaves it and gives in to the temptation to raise his arm and touch Harry. They're standing very close, so it's not that far, and he grips Harry's face in something that slides into a caress, but not before he's turned Harry's head up so Harry's finally looking in his eye. Harry's not breathing, and Ron finds that he isn't either; he's too busy willing Harry to believe him.
And then there's a moment when the hope finally flares bright in Harry's eyes and the mask of bitterness slips, and Ron knows that this is the moment when they will kiss. He tightens his hand around the back of Harry's head, in his hair, in anticipation, but then remembers sixth-year Harry's look of enraptured disgust, and his expressed opinion that Ron might become a decent kisser after some practice (which Ron hadn't really had), and he exhales and the moment passes.
He mentally gropes about, trying to find something to fill the sudden silence of their stance, and seizes upon trying to tell Harry what he had been telling him before it just happened.
"I mean, I do see it now. What I'd been missing all along, what you knew. And I was stupid, because I loved you too." He pauses, the words still in the air, and there is another Moment. Ron's fingers are restless in Harry's hair, and he does not want to remove them, so he doesn't. "I still do," he says, in a softer voice. "Love you."
Harry makes some kind of soft noise, and his face shines even as it collapses, and Harry himself collapses into Ron's chest. Ron clings to him tightly, holding him up, and buries his face in Harry's hair. He says it again, I love you, just to make sure, and also because he likes the way it sounds, and being able to say it.
Harry makes the sound again, and presently there is a sniffle. "Stop it, you're going to make me cry, you berk."
Ron laughs and takes a step forward so that he can hold Harry closer. Harry positively snuggles into him, and Ron wonders how he could how he could have ever done without this. How he could have stood for there to be space between him and Harry, and how he could have ever seen him standing alone and been afraid.
"I won't say anything if you don't," Ron says, because he feels a stupid prickling at the corners of his own eyes too, and then he changes the subject because it wasn't manly to talk about crying. "You want to come to lunch? I was just going back now, and you could hang around for tea, too, if you want."
"Yeah, I think I'll want to." Harry's words are slightly muffled in Ron's robes, and he seems unwilling to move. Ron wouldn't want to let him, but for the fact that the Ministry floos only fit one at a time. His stomach grumbles, and Harry's chuckle resonates against his body where they're leaning together.
"All right, all right," says Harry, and he reluctantly disentangles himself. They put the Pensieve and the vials away, and walk back to the floos shoulder to shoulder, hands just barely brushing.
After, after they have made the most banal of small talk for too long and have been fed too much lunch while sharing nervous excited happy glances across the table, they excuse themselves and go for a walk in the garden, careful to keep a respectable distance apart. As soon as they get out of sight of the house Harry dives under Ron's arm as though he's afraid it will disappear, and does that snuggling thing again. Ron's stomach flips, and their walk doesn't proceed past the broom shed.
"I don't think you'd still be a terrible kisser, you know," Harry says, squinting against the afternoon light slanting down on them behind the shed.
"You don't?" Ron's stomach does a few more flips in rapid succession and he feels unreasonably lightheaded. How could he feel this way? It's just Harry, for fuck's sake. How has he never felt this way around Harry before?
"No," says Harry, and his fingers are tangled in Ron's hair for the second time that day, and it's not very gentle this time either. "It was all Lavender; she was a horrible kisser, I could tell. And besides, that was a million years ago, and it doesn't matter at all."
Ron's heart is beating a rapid tattoo against his ribs by now, just from Harry being so near and saying those things, and the way his fingers curled in Ron's hair. With the right person, memory-Harry had said, and Ron now knows what that meant, immediately and totally and with every cell of his being.
"Well," breathes Ron, and Harry looks so serious as he pulls Ron's head closer that Ron smiles. Ron leans down and Harry tilts up and their lips touch and they are kissing, and it's brilliant. Ron doesn't realize that he has said this aloud until Harry echoes him, speaking without breaking contact.
"Brilliant. You're brilliant, Ron." It comes out with too many puffs of warm air and light ticklish feathery touches of Harry's lips against his, and it is too much and Ron reaches his breaking point precisely at the last syllable before his name. He wraps his arms possessively about Harry, and one hand comes snaking up to cradle the back of Harry's neck, right where the fine hairs end, and Harry must feel it too, because their mouths come crashing together at exactly the same time.
They kiss this time with an urgency that they had not felt a moment ago, but it is the pent up urgency of all those years, and they know it. Ron has forgotten all about technique by now, because there's no time for such things, and no space in his brain for it anyway. And then he does something that makes Harry moan, literally moan, right in their joined mouths and Ron can feel it through his skin too, and Ron realizes that sometimes it is all right, even necessary, to make very loud sucking noises. Because that's the sound that it makes when Ron makes Harry moan again, and later there is a rather loud slopping noise as they part (or try to, because Harry seems disinclined to let it end just yet, and Ron is inclined to agree with him).
When they finally do, Ron has to wipe a string of saliva (their saliva, thank you very much), from his face, but he doesn't feel stupid in the least. Harry is beaming up at him and they're in the sun and the chickens are coming over to investigate, and they can make as much noise as they bloody well like. And then Ron thinks joyfully that they can do this as many times as they like, and Harry is clearly thinking the same thing. Before it is too late (because they move together inexorably, and it is a force to be reckoned with), Harry turns his head to one side and mumbles, "I'm sorry about being angry with you for seeing the Pensieve. I should never have been afraid -"
"Shh now." Ron says, reaching up to turn Harry's face a bit clumsily because his arms have somehow gotten trapped between them. "Enough apologies, I think – we could be stuck here all day doing that, and we don't even have all day because they'll come looking for us when it's time for tea, and I have better ideas for what to do with our time."
Harry hums his agreement, and presses Ron against the rough wood of the broom shed wall as if he needs it more than anything, and Ron sends up a short, silent prayer of thanks to whoever invented the Pensieve before his mind is completely occupied by Harry again.
Miraculous inventions, he thinks. Bloody brilliant.
Note: The name on the last bottle stands for "That Time Ron Kissed Lavender Brown And I Argued With Ginny." The idea for acronym-memories is shamelessly snagged from Tiger Lanter's A Twist In Time which is the definitive, original Harry/Ron Pensieve fic, and which is entirely better than my own paltry attempt. Go. Read. Now.