"I'd like to make a toast!" Seamus declared, jumping to feet and grinning widely. The other men booed drunkenly at him, but he picked up his wine glass and cleared his throat, ignoring their jeers. "Tomorrow, Ron…ald Weasley is getting his pale, freckly arse married. It's taken a long, long time. Personally, I always thought this one would be the first to get married, seeing as how he's been having wet dreams about Hermione since fourth year – ow! No kicking the speech-maker! Anyway, like I said, I always thought he would be the first to get married. As it turns out, he's nearly the last. I'd like to turn your attention now to the shady, drunk, devilishly handsome, and woefully single man sitting across from me. Harry Potter, ladies and – whoops – Harry Potter, fine gentlemen, needs a woman. Cheers!"
"Cheers!" Dean, Neville, and Ron chorused, laughing and knocking their glasses together before downing more wine.
Harry sat with his arms crossed resolutely, glaring at Seamus.
"Seriously, mate," Dean leaned over and nudged Harry's glass towards him. "When's the last time you went on a date?"
Harry uncrossed his arms and drank the rest of his wine, then the rest of Dean's. "A couple weeks ago."
"You're Harry Potter," Neville said, speaking slowly as though Harry wouldn't understand him otherwise. "How can you not find a woman? I found a woman."
"Yeah, but you're a good catch," Harry smiled. "You're… you're a good catch."
Neville blinked a few times, his eyebrows slowly furrowing as he examined Harry's face. Harry squirmed under the scrutiny and turned to Ron.
"Are you nervous, yet?"
"Don't change the subject!" Seamus exclaimed, leaning across the table and narrowing his eyes. "If you can't get a witch by the end of the year, I'll lend you mine."
Harry's mouth opened slightly with shock. "You're offering me… your wife?"
"Sure," Seamus shrugged as he sat back up. "We've got an open marriage."
Dean sniggered and Seamus shot him a lethal glare.
"Well, that's… I'm literally speechless," Harry finished after a long, awkward pause. "I'm going to have to decline on the offer. Thanks, though. I guess."
"There should be a lot of single witches at the reception," Dean noted. "We should try to set him up with someone."
"Those women are dangerous," Seamus said, shaking his head emphatically. "They're fucking miserable and desperate. Harry doesn't want a quick fuck in the loo with a crazy – he wants a wife. Right, mate?"
"So… you want a quick fuck in the loo with a crazy?"
Seamus, Dean, and Neville all frowned at their flushed and bespectacled friend.
"You don't want a wife or a fuck?" Seamus asked.
"I give up," he said, finishing off his wine.
"What do you want?" Dean cocked his head to the side, studying Harry carefully.
"I… I don't want anything. I'm happy with… with this," he gestured to his friends.
"But we're married," Neville said as though he were breaking terrible news.
"He's only got a few more hours," Dean chuckled, patting Ron's shoulder.
"You're losing your last single friend!" Seamus cried out, imploringly. "You need a woman!"
"I don't need a woman!" Harry shouted, silencing his friends' laughter. "I don't need a wife. I don't need you to find me one. I don't need you to take the piss. I don't need you to remind me that I'm completely alone, that I'm the last one without a partner, that I'm pathetic. I got it, okay? I got it. It's understood. So… shut the fuck up, already."
After a moment of deadening silence, Dean pushed his chair back with a loud squeak. "I think I'm going to call it a night and get back to the hotel. Ron, Harry, thanks for the hospitality."
"I'm coming with," Seamus said, desperately getting out of his chair and heading for the door. "I'll see you all tomorrow," he called as he followed Dean into the hallway.
"Are you okay?" Neville asked timidly, glancing at Harry.
"Fine," Harry shrugged, trying to sound casual and unaffected. "I'm fine."
Neville looked at Ron, who was staring avidly at Harry, drinking in his best friend with his wide, needy eyes.
Ron tore his gaze from Harry's face and turned to Neville. "Yeah."
"Yeah," Ron managed a tight-lipped smile.
"You sure about this?"
"About marrying Hermione?"
Ron's expression soured. "What the hell kind of question is that for the night before my wedding! Of course I'm fucking sure. What the hell is going on here?"
"Nothing," Neville said softly, standing up. "I didn't mean anything by it. I was just trying to be a friend. I'll see you two tomorrow."
Harry and Ron sat at the kitchen table in silence as Neville left and closed the door behind him.
"So much for enjoying your last night in the flat," Harry said, smiling weakly.
Ron shrugged, sighing heavily. "Are you okay?"
"I said I'm fine!"
"I know, but… I just wanted to ask. You don't… you don't feel like you're losing your only single friend, do you?"
"Well, I am."
"You're not losing me."
"You're getting married."
"So! So nothing is going to change. I'll just live with her instead of you."
"A lot is going to change, Ron."
"No! Nothing's going to change! You're still my best mate."
"I'm going to bed," Harry decided, standing and gathering up the wine glasses. When the table was cleared and the wine bottle was back in the cupboard, he made for his room, stopping to clap a hand on Ron's shoulder. "Enjoy your last night as a single man."
Ron let out an almost inaudible whimper as he slumped down in his chair and banged his forehead into the table. Harry looked at Ron's weary form for a moment before turning away and going into his bedroom.
The morning was a blur and before he knew it, before he was ready for it, Harry found himself standing alone with Ron in the kitchen at the Burrow. They watched as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley took their seats.
"Shit," Ron laughed nervously, running his hands over his robes. "This is really happening. I'm getting married. I'm marrying Hermione. I'm getting married."
"Calm down," Harry said soothing. "It's just a day, it's just an event, it's just Hermione."
"Hermione," Ron repeated, smiling to himself.
"Hermione," Harry muttered, turning away from Ron. "Ready?"
When Ron said nothing, Harry turned around to face his friend. Ron had a terrified, guilty, almost regretful look on his face. Taking a deep breath, Harry hugged him.
"I love you," Harry whispered. "I love Hermione. And you love each other. There's no reason to be nervous. Let's go."
The two men stepped away from each other and, without another word, moved out into the back yard to take their places in front of the crowd. Harry looked around at the people gathered there for Ron and Hermione's wedding. Both mothers were sitting up front, already starting to cry. Ron's siblings were behind his parents, except for Ginny, who was the Maid of Honor. Harry's eyes fell back upon Ron, who was trying his hardest not to display his nervousness, but Harry could see the slight twitch in his back that meant he was shuffling around under his robes.
Music started playing from nowhere in particular, and Harry turned to see Hermione being led down the aisle by her grinning father. She was beaming, radiant, beautiful, and walking towards the man she had been in love with for as long as she could remember. Harry watched with a slight smile as she finally reached him and Ron. Ron took her hands and they turned to the tall, round wizard conducting the wedding. Harry turned, too, and looked out over the hills in the distance as the ceremony began. He had been to dozens of weddings, had seen nearly all of his friends find their true loves, but this time was different. This time, he was losing his best friends to each other, losing the closest friendship he had ever experienced, and he felt lost. When Ron and Hermione came back from their honeymoon, they would move into a flat together, leaving Harry alone.
Ron laughed at something the tall, round wizard had said, and Harry was pulled back into reality. His best friends were in love and getting married. He should be ecstatic for them.
"Now," the wizard took an impressive pause, "do you, Ronald Bilius, take Hermione Jean to be your wife?"
Harry's heart ached. He heard Ron take a deep breath and gulp loudly. Ron opened his mouth, and Harry took a wild, uncontrollable, and almost imperceptible step forward. Ron stiffened at the motion behind him. Harry was panting and his heart was thundering in his chest, and he was sure everyone at the wedding could hear his private panic.
"Ron," Hermione whispered.
Ron jolted out of a trance and looked around. His eyes moved from his parents, to Hermione, to the tall, round wizard, to Harry. With a look of devastation, Ron dropped Hermione's hands.
"Ron," she squeaked, looking rapidly between the man she was supposed to be marrying, and his Best Man. "Ron, what are you doing?"
"I – I can't. Hermione," Ron pleaded, clasping one of her hands with both of his. "I love you – I'm sorry."
"You love me, you're sorry?" she scowled, careful to keep her voice low.
Ginny turned towards the audience and smiled reassuringly, trying to shrug off the situation playfully.
"I'm sorry," Ron repeated miserably. "I'm so sorry."
"Is something wrong?" the tall, round wizard asked, leaning closer to the confused couple.
"Are you calling this off?" Hermione asked, her voice threatening.
"I – I can't, Hermione, please, you – you don't understand."
"No, I don't fucking understand!" Hermione shouted, causing the crowd to gasp. There was a low murmur throughout the backyard and Hermione's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Ron?"
"I love you," Ron pleaded.
"Then what the hell is going on?"
"Hermione," Harry stepped forward, positioning himself next to Ron. "Can we just… let's calm down, okay?"
"Calm down!" Hermione cackled mutinously. "Calm down! You fucking calm down, Harry! Could someone please explain to me what is going on here?"
"I'm in love with Ron," Harry said, his voice barely audible over the loud confusion of all the guests. Mr. Weasley had stood up and was walking towards them.
"You're WHAT?" Hermione screamed, stomping a few steps backwards. "You're WHAT?"
"I'm in love with Ron," Harry repeated in a low voice. He raised a hand to warn Ron's father not to come any closer. "You need to calm down, Hermione. We should go talk somewhere."
"Talk about what?" Hermione snarled through clenched teeth. "I don't care if you're in love with him! What does that have to do with this?"
"Hermione," Ron whispered, his voice wobbly with emotion. "I love you. I can't marry you. I didn't – I didn't know – I thought I could. I thought I wanted to. I'm so… so sorry."
Hermione's wide eyes moved between Harry and Ron for a long moment as understanding sunk over her, Ginny, and the tall, round wizard. Before anyone could stop her, she lurched forward and slapped Ron, hard, across the face.
"How dare you," she spat, trembling with fury. Ignoring every shocked face and feeble protest, Hermione twisted her arm to pull the wand out from where it had been tucked into the back of her dress. Ginny pounced, trapping Hermione's arms to the side. She whispered calmly in Hermione's ear until Hermione went limp in her grip and nodded. The two of them spun quickly, disappearing from sight.
Slowly, every face in the backyard turned towards Harry and Ron. Ron was shaking and as his parents headed for him, his knees gave out and he fell to the ground. Harry crouched beside him and placed a hand on his back.
"Do you want me to take you home?"
Ron nodded, covering his face with his hands.
"Okay, come on. Come up," Harry grabbed Ron's sides and pulled him until he was standing again. He reached inside his robes and, shaking his head warningly at Ron's approaching parents, extracted his wand. "Are you sure?"
"Please," Ron whispered, turning away from his family.
Harry grasped Ron's arm tightly and twisted sharply, thinking of their flat.
Ron pulled out of Harry's grip and made for his room. Harry grabbed him again and spun him around.
"I can't deal with this right now," Ron said, staring ashamedly at the floor. "I just – I need some time alone right now. Okay?"
"No, Harry." Ron stepped away and met Harry's eyes. "I cannot… I'll come talk to you when I'm ready. I'm not ready. Please just leave me alone."
Harry watched as Ron retreated to his room. Sighing heavily, he situated himself on the couch and waited. He sat for a long time in silence, replaying the botched wedding over and over in his head. What on earth had possessed him to declare his love for Ron to Hermione? He wondered where she and Ginny had gone, where they would be now, and if Hermione was okay. He wanted to check, to be with her and make sure she was okay, but he couldn't leave his flat. No force or disaster could have plucked him from that couch that did not involve Ron coming out of his room.
Time passed slowly, and Harry nodded in and out of a light doze until he kicked off his shoes, flung his legs on the couch, and curled up to sleep.
Ron came out of his room the next day, clad in his pajamas. He leaned against his doorframe for a few minutes, watching Harry sleeping on the couch. When Ron sat down, Harry groaned and opened his eyes.
"What time is it?"
"Shit. Is it tomorrow, already?" Harry asked, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He replaced his glasses, which had fallen onto the floor during the night. Ron smiled slightly and Harry shook his head to clear away his grogginess. "Stupid question."
Ron shrugged and looked down at his knees, unsure what to say or do. Finally, he let out a miserable sigh. "I don't know what I'm doing," he admitted. "I don't know what I did. I'm… so confused. I think I may have really fucked up some… important things."
"Hermione will be okay," Harry said softly. "Maybe not soon, but she'll get there."
Ron shook his head and looked over at Harry. "How are you doing?"
Harry shrugged. "I… fine, I guess. I don't really know, either."
They sat in silence together, waiting for something, anything to happen. Ron shifted uncomfortably and Harry avoided meeting his gaze.
"Fuck," Ron muttered after a long time, propping his arms on his knees and leaning forward to cover his face with his hands.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked in a whisper.
"I don't know what the fuck is going on," Ron choked out.
Harry scooted down the couch until he could drape an over Ron's tense shoulders. "It's okay," he said soothingly. "Everything's going to be fine. We've been through much worse than this."
Ron laughed bitterly and sat back up, turning to face Harry. "You're in love with me?"
Feeling his insides turn to liquid, Harry nodded, holding their eye contact.
Slowly, painfully slowly, Ron's somber expression broke into a grin. He leaned forward and place a gentle kiss on Harry's dry lips.
"I don't know. Really. I don't know… anything. But I…" he took a deep breath. "I need you," he said slowly, trying out the words.
Harry laughed despite himself. "I'm a sick fuck for being happy right now, aren't I?"
"If you're a sick fuck, than I'm an ever sicker fuck," Ron decided. "I'm the one who was supposed to get married yesterday."
Harry nodded and relaxed, leaning back on the couch with an easy smile resting on his face. "How did this happen?"
"No idea," Ron shrugged. "Have… are you… um."
Blushing, Harry inspected his fingernails. "No, not really. I never…" He took a long pause, carefully considering his next words. "You're the only man I've ever been attracted to."
"Yeah," Ron sighed, sounding relieved. "Me neither. I mean, same. Same for me."
Smiling, Harry looked up again. "Now what?"
"Now… I don't know. I don't… yeah. No idea."
"Is it okay if I kiss you again?"
"I think that would be okay," Ron laughed.
"Good," Harry sat back up and grabbed the back of Ron's head with one hand, while the other rested on Ron's thigh. He kissed Ron softly and slowly, gently easing Ron's mouth open after a moment, and gradually sliding his tongue against Ron's. They inched closer together, and Ron's hands wandered aimlessly, exploring Harry's chest and arms, back and shoulders, before coming to rest entangled in his messy hair.
When they broke apart, they were flushed and panting, but grinning wildly. Unable to stop himself, Harry continued kissing along Ron's jawbone, trailing his lips up to Ron's ear. Ron shivered slightly when Harry's breath rustled the hair on his neck.
"Fuck," Harry growled, forcing himself to lean away from Ron. He smiled sheepishly. "I… how are you feeling?"
"Good," Ron laughed, rolling his eyes. "I think I'm good."
"Yeah," Ron nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I'm okay. I wish… I wish I knew if Hermione was okay. But I know she's probably not right now. I'm not really sure if I am right now. But… you're here."
"Then I'm great."