Harry and Ron packed their things silently. Harry had never dreaded going back to the Dursleys this much before. He was terrified and in shock and unable to cope with his grief or rage or confusion. The last thing he wanted or needed was another summer with the family that hated him, refused to support him, and frequently abused him. All he wanted to do was curl up underground until the fall, or possibly forever. Now that Voldemort was truly back, he doubted that Hogwarts would bring the safety and comfort that it had in the past. He kept sneaking glances at Ron, wondering what a full summer at the Burrow would be like.
Ron looked up, feeling Harry's eyes on him, and smiled weakly. "Ready, mate?" Ron locked his trunk and sat down on top of it.
Harry looked down at his full trunk and nodded. Ron watched him carefully as he tossed in a lone sock and then shut the heavy lid.
"Yeah." Ron seemed to know what he was going to ask. "Come home with me."
Harry sucked in a breath and nodded. "Can I?"
"Of course you can." Ron stood. "You know Mum would love to have you. She worries about you at the Dursleys. She thinks you're her long-lost, black-haired son. You know that. 'Sides…," Ron glanced around the room, "I don't want you going back there, either."
Harry smiled tiredly down at his hands. "Thanks, Ron."
"I owe you one anyway." Harry looked up, confused. "I'm the one who thought you put your name in the goblet, remember? I'm sorry about that."
"It's alright. You know that."
"I do know. But you never let me apologize. You almost died thinking I hated you."
"True…" Harry sighed and looked down at his hands again. "Well, you sure your mum won't mind? I don't want be a bother – another mouth to feed or anything. She's already got all of you to look after–"
"Harry, shut up, you know you're always welcome. She wants you home with us. We all do, honestly. Your uncle is a bastard, to say the least, and so is his filthy son… and his wife, Harry, your dumb aunt–"
Harry laughed for the first time in days as he saw Ron's face stiffen with anger. "Okay, mate, I get it. Thanks. Really. I just think… maybe we could have given your mum more than five minute's notice. That's all."
"She won't notice. Come on." Ron grunted as he dragged his heavy trunk off his bare bed. Before Harry could touch his own trunk, Ron grabbed it and yanked it to the floor. He looked up at Harry and paused before speaking. "Thought… you look exhausted…"
Harry nodded and followed Ron out of their room, knowing that they would meet their belongings on the train in a few hours.
The trip home was quiet; Harry slept and Ron watched him, frowning. Hermione was reading in the corner and Ron didn't bother to look at what it was she was studying. He was worried about Harry; he looked thin and tired and small, but deathly serious and quite a bit older than he had been a few months ago, perhaps even a few weeks ago. Watching Harry fall apart over Cedric's lifeless body had been terrifying. Hermione had clung so tightly to Ron's arm that he still had a bruise, but at the time, he hadn't noticed. The only thing he saw was Harry clutching Cedric's dirty, bloody clothes. The only thing he felt was his heart, thumping wildly and loudly against his ribcage. He was upset that Cedric died; he was upset that Harry had apparently witnessed his death, his murder, and felt compelled to bring his dead body back; he was upset that the tournament had ended so tragically. Mostly, though he would never admit it, he was relieved, overwhelmingly relieved, that Harry was okay, that Harry wasn't the one lying, stiff and still, on the ground, that Harry was safe and alive.
The train slowed to an awkward, shaky stop, and Ron was jerked out of his thoughts. He looked over at Hermione, who was staring back at him. She also seemed concerned, but not necessarily about Harry. Ron glanced out the window onto the platform and saw his mother, in all her blazing glory, standing and waiting for her children.
"Ron." Ron turned reluctantly to Hermione. "You've barely blinked this whole ride."
"How would you know, your eyes were glued to that book the whole time," Ron muttered and stood, adjusting his shirt.
"I stopped reading an hour ago," Hermione said quietly, placing her book in her bag and standing. She glared importantly at Ron.
Ron refused to meet her gaze. He looked at the floor, the seats, the windows, the overhead compartments, the trashy paint-job on the walls, and then his watch. "Better wake him up." He turned to look at Harry, who was frowning in his sleep.
Hermione turned, bent down, and stroked Harry's scarred cheek gently.
Harry jerked awake. "What – Ron – where – Hermione!" Harry blushed and rushed to stand. Hermione pushed him back down on the seat.
"Listen to me, Harry. Promise me you'll try and stay out of trouble this summer. You have to be extra careful now and I don't want anything happening to you." Her voice softened as she spoke. "And take care of yourself, too, okay?" She turned to Ron and became stern again. "Make sure he eats. And sleeps. And doesn't spend all day worrying." She pulled Harry up roughly and hugged him tightly. Then she turned to Ron and hugged him angrily before dashing out of the car.
Ron turned to Harry, smiling. "She's still a nutter."
"Obviously." Harry smiled tiredly and ran his hands over his messy hair. "Let's get off this damn train." He pushed his way out of the car, and Ron followed closely. "Hi, Mrs. Weasley." Harry's weak voice was muffled in Mrs. Weasley's hair as she nearly squeezed the life out of him. "Mrs. Weasley–"
She pushed him away and grabbed his shoulders. "I'm so glad you're feeling alright. You look better. You have more color." She was lying.
Harry nodded. "I'm a little better, yeah." He was lying.
Mrs. Weasley turned away from him and greeted her own children warmly. Harry watched Ron nervously, wondering when he would ask. He could feel his Uncle's angry gaze from across the platform, and he was getting anxious.
"Mum – Mum, stop – I have – stop!" Ron stepped away from his mother as she tried to squeeze him harder. "I have a bit of a question. Or a favor. Or… can Harry spend the summer?" Ron glanced over at Harry, and then back to his mom.
"Ohh! Of course!" Mrs. Weasley turned back to Harry and embraced him again. "Harry, I would love to have you spend the summer with us. I would feel so much better – where is your uncle – if you were with us and not back with them – I'll go tell him myself – you need a nice, relaxing summer – better come with, dear." She dragged Harry over to his aunt and uncle.
Uncle Vernon was more than happy to have Harry off his hands for the summer, though furious about having to come all the way to the train station. Harry ignored his uncle's muttering and turned around to smile at Ron. Ron grinned back.
That night, Harry settled himself down in the extra bed in Ron's small room at the top of the Burrow. He felt as safe and content as he could, which satisfied him enough for the night. He was looking forward to the longest sleep of his life.
Ron turned off the lights and crawled into his own bed. He watched as Harry fell almost instantly asleep, but couldn't fall asleep himself for another two hours.
During the hot days at the Burrow, Ron and Harry mostly stayed up in Ron's room playing chess or chatting about Quidditch. The World Cup was becoming fresher in their minds as they pushed the events of the school year into the back of their memories and recalled the moves of the Bulgarians and the Irish. Ron was calm and attentive, noticing Harry's every move and expression, catering to every emotion that flashed across his green eyes. Harry was quiet and, mostly, sad. When he thought Ron wasn't looking, he spent most of his time looking out the window, or simply down at his ankles.
On his third night in the Burrow, Harry was finding it harder to sleep. It was raining and he found himself overly paranoid that Voldemort would crash through Ron's window at any moment. Ron, on the other hand, was sound asleep for the first time in days, slumbering happily thanks to the steady beat of the rain on the thin roof mere feet above his head.
After a particularly illuminating lightening strike, Harry shoved off his covers and sat up in bed. He stared at the other boy's sleeping figure; Ron's lips were parted slightly as he snored, and his hands were buried somewhere beneath the ratty comforter. Breathing heavily, Harry stood and walked towards Ron's bed. He stopped half way, frozen in his tracks as Ron shifted slightly. Ron didn't wake up, but Harry didn't move further. A minute later, thunder roared across the sky louder and longer than Harry had ever heard, and he darted into Ron's bed. Ron, woken by the thunder, started at the extra body shoving its way under his covers. He scooted over to give his new bedmate more room.
"Harry," Ron whispered, staring at the back of his friend's head. Harry panicked and started to get back out of the bed, but Ron reached out a hand and grabbed Harry's shoulder. "S… y-you can stay." Ron removed the hand from Harry and waited for him to turn around, but he never did. Ron readjusted himself on the bed and reached out to touch Harry, anywhere, as he felt himself falling quickly back to sleep. His hand landed on Harry's thigh. Just before losing consciousness, he registered that his palm was on Harry's boxers, but that his fingers were resting on Harry's bare leg.
Harry didn't sleep at all that night. He lay there for hours, concentrating on the sound of the rain and the feeling of Ron's warm hand on his leg. When the sun came up and the rain stopped, Ron stirred and Harry froze. Ron rolled over, taking his hand off Harry, and snored into his pillow. Harry turned his head slowly.
"Gotcha." Ron opened his eyes and grinned up at Harry.
Harry blushed wildly, got out of the bed, and ran down to the bathroom as quickly as he could. Ron turned onto his back. He sighed and stared up at the ceiling, which seemed to be sighing with him as it wavered in the morning breeze. Eventually, long after the time Harry should have been back, Ron dressed and went down to the kitchen. Harry and Ginny were sitting at the table, eating toast. He was explaining about how lightening storms caused electricity to go out, but Ginny didn't seem to understand, or even care. She was smiling up at Harry, blankly, clearly only listening to the sound of his voice. Harry didn't seem to notice, or perhaps he just didn't mind.
Ron sat down across from them and grabbed a piece of toast. Ginny looked over at her brother and frowned.
"I made breakfast for me and Harry."
"Piss off, it's only one slice," Ron grumbled and ate his toast slowly, pretending to read the Daily Prophet. When he finished, he went back up to his room, hoping Harry would follow shortly. It was another hour before Harry came upstairs to get dressed. He ignored Ron as he shed his nightshirt and pulled on clothes. "Game of chess?" Ron asked, hopefully, as Harry sat down to pull on socks.
"Can't," Harry said shortly. "Going on a walk with Ginny." Ron stared as Harry tied up his shoes and left the room without saying another word.
Ron spent his day writing a long, revealing letter to Hermione, which he then scribbled over and used to line Pig's cage. It was almost dinner before Harry and Ginny came back, and Ron, who had skipped lunch, was hungry and irritable. Harry pretended not to notice the way that Ron scowled at him when he came back up into the room, smiling and a bit muddy.
"Don't trek mud all over my house, Harry."
Harry turned to Ron, standing tall. "I didn't. I left my shoes outside. Thanks."
"Where did you go?"
"Told you. Went for a walk."
"Dunno." Harry went over to Hedwig's cage. "Dunno this area, Ron. Don't live here."
"Right," Ron muttered and went downstairs to sit at the table and wait for dinner.
That night, the boys went to bed without saying much to each other. Ron didn't sleep.
Another week went by before Harry sat down to play chess with Ron again. Ron's days had been spent flipping idly through old Quidditch magazines and sitting around in Fred and George's room, while Harry's had been mostly spent wandering through near-by fields, sometimes with Ginny, but usually alone. Ron noticed that Harry never came back as happy as he had the first day; in fact, Harry seemed to come back worse than when he left in the morning. He always had the same dark expression on his face, and Ron could tell that he had mostly been reliving his graveyard experience when he was out and alone in the fields surrounding the Burrow.
"Harry," Ron began as one of his pieces destroyed one of Harry's. "I just…" His voice trailed off as Harry took the next turn. Ten minutes went by before Ron won the game and they began to set up a new one. "I'm still glad that you're here." His voice was quiet, but there was no other noise in the room, except the occasional drowsy hoot from one of the sleeping owls.
Harry didn't say anything as he pulled on the ends of his shaggy hair.
That night, after Harry was sure that Ron was asleep, he crept silently across the room and into Ron's bed. Ron stirred and opened one eye as Harry pushed him gently. As Harry settled under the covers, Ron pressed his chest against Harry's back and wrapped an arm around Harry's middle. Harry took slow, deep breaths as Ron drew him closer. A few minutes went by and nothing more happened, so Harry closed his eyes and wrapped one of his hands around Ron's and tried to go to sleep. Just as he was slipping into a dream, he was startled back into reality by a soft moan – that came from his own lips. Ron had his mouth pressed against the back of Harry's neck and was leaving kisses on every inch of skin, sucking gently every few seconds. Harry gripped Ron's hand tighter. Ron was so loving and gentle and all Harry wanted to do was crumble into his arms and cry – for Cedric, for his parents, for his own loss of innocence and happiness, for the intense fear he held in his heart. But then Ron's teeth nipped at Harry's earlobe, and all sad thoughts left Harry's mind as his mouth opened and he let out another soft moan.
Harry turned and, after catching Ron's dark blue eyes for a moment, put his lips to Ron's. Ron ran his hand up Harry's back to Harry's hair, digging his fingers into the black mane. They kissed desperately, pressing their bodies tightly together, trying to melt into each other.
Harry gripped Ron's arm tightly, pulling him closer and holding him in place. Ron broke the kiss to gasp for air and Harry quickly let go.
"Sorry," he muttered.
"What on earth are you apologizing for?" Ron asked, panting slightly. He pulled his hand out of Harry's hair and let it rest on Harry's tense back.
"For being such a mess."
Ron smiled sadly and pulled Harry against him. "No one's expecting you to be a shiny, happy person right now, mate," he said, nuzzling Harry's cheek.
Harry sighed quietly and nodded into Ron's hair. Ron moved his lips back to Harry's and they kissed slowly.
"Ron," Harry whispered, pulling back. "I'm sorry I've been avoiding you lately."
"Stop apologizing for things," Ron muttered, turning his head and burying his face in the pillow.
Harry ran his fingers through Ron's hair for a few moments, watching Ron's breathing slow down. Finally, he extracted his hand and started to sit up.
"Where are you going?" Ron asked, lifting his head.
"My bed." Harry shrugged. "Thought you wanted to sleep."
"Thought you wanted to sleep in my bed." Ron winked.
Harry blushed and lay back down. "You sure you don't mind?"
"Why would I mind?" Ron wrapped an arm around Harry's middle and closed his eyes. "I like it this way."
Harry kissed Ron briefly and snuggled against him. "Goodnight."
"'Night," Ron yawned.