Warnings for the complete story: EWE, canon and non-canon character deaths, masturbation, explicit description of m/m sexual activity, sexual assault (non-titillating description), mental illnesses, drug and alcohol abuse, semi-public sex, strong language, four funerals and a wedding.

Author's Notes: The title, chapter titles and quoted passages are taken from various versions of the Anglican funeral service.

This was written for the live journal 2011 ronbigbang. I am intensely grateful to my betas feltonxmalfoy and masteroftrouble, and to glockgal for doing artwork which can be seen here: http:SLASH SLASH picslivejournal DOT com SLASH wwmrsweasleydo SLASH pic SLASH 0005yh4s SLASH (replacing the DOT with a . and the SLASHes with /s) and also to the ronbigbang mods.

Disclaimer: The characters and settings herein are the intellectual property of JK Rowling.

CHAPTER NINE: Of Whom May We Seek for Succour?

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy,

The monster's breathing was loud in the dark; it echoed off the wooden walls. The monster moved slowly. A naked body lay helplessly curled in the corner. It wasn't Ron; Ron was the monster, and he moved towards the darkest place, rejoicing in the whimper which rose from there. He paced, watching the dark, bare body writhing in fear. He pounced.

Ron woke in the dark of George's bedroom, with his heart hammering in a familiar way. The dream had been different this time. Half awake, he lifted his fingers to his lip as though he could feel an imprint of Lee's mouth there still. He ran through his actions in the hospital corridor in his mind and he wanted to repeat them.

Lee was on the other side of that door, sleeping on the sofa. He had already been asleep there when Ron had finally made it home from the Burrow after celebrating his father's return with the rest of his family. If Ron listened hard and filtered out George's snores, maybe he would be able to hear something of Lee.

Lee was kind and brave and handsome. He was also sane and honest, unlike some. Lee was in love with Ron, he had said so. Lee had made one mistake once when he'd been drunk and full of grief.

But what a mistake! Ron tasted his own fear again, his horror. The two moments ran concurrently through his thoughts: his kiss in the corridor and Lee's pounce in the tree-house.

Lee was in the next room and Ron wanted to kiss him again.

Ron slipped silently out of his bed and tiptoed out of the bedroom. Once in the sitting room, he stood still — letting his eyes adjust to the low light and listening for Lee's breathing. On this side of the door it was easier to discount the sounds made by George. After a moment he caught it: the steady inhale and exhale of air passing through Lee's lungs.

He walked softly to the sofa and, as he did so, the shape of Lee's unconscious body became clearer. Ron squatted down beside him, still not sure what he was going to do. For several minutes he just watched and thought and tried to work things out. He couldn't merge the two Lees into this body, though. The man who had held him down and groped him could not be the same man he worked with every day; neither of them were this sleeping peaceful form of warmth.

Eventually he realised that Lee's eyes were open. It was too dark for Ron to see them in detail, but he was surprised to find that he could remember exactly what they looked like.

"Huh?" Lee asked sleepily.

"Been thinking," Ron whispered.

"Uh?" Lee swallowed and blinked heavily.

Ron didn't think that he would have been as polite as Lee was being, to anyone who had woken him in the middle of the night. Lee had never struck him as being a particularly happy waker — one of those dreadful chirpy sunshine people who leaped out of bed without a grumble — so perhaps this was a proof of just how much he really did like Ron.

"About kissing you," Ron explained.

Lee's eyes flew open and his mouth made a little 'Oh' shape.

"I don't know why I did it," Ron said.

Lee's face fell a little, but in a guarded way. He closed his eyes.

"But I want to do it again."

Their eyes met. They stared at one another and Ron's heart thudded loudly in his chest. He moved forwards slowly, hoping that Lee would move a little in his direction too, to help him out. It made sense, though, that Lee would not dare to approach Ron at all. Not even now.

Ron kissed Lee. At first he just made one dry, soft little butterfly of contact on unmoving full lips. Even that felt comfortable and right. Then he placed a hand on each of Lee's shoulders to steady himself and opened his mouth slightly. He pecked at Lee's lips with his own, finally eliciting a responding movement.

Fluttering tentatively, Lee's hands came up to rest against Ron's chest. Their mouths moved together. Ron didn't know who had initiated it, but the stroking of their tongues against each other felt very right.

He wanted to feel Lee's body against him, so he moved up and began climbing onto the sofa without breaking the kiss. He lay down on top of Lee, with the quilt and their nightclothes between them, but the heat of Lee's body was apparent. Lee's hips bucked up underneath him and Ron realised that he was hard. He ground down onto Lee's thigh.

Then suddenly it was over. Lee had moved away, was pushing him off, sitting up.

"What?" Ron asked, ridiculously devastated.

"I don't think this is the right time," Lee said. "Look, I don't want something to happen tonight, and then in the morning you regret it. I know you think you want this now. I'm not going to take advantage of that. Can't do that to you." He took a deep, shaky breath. "Can't do it to me, either. Not get this close and then have you hate me again."

"I won't hate you. I want to do this," Ron whined.

"Look, you've had a weird day." Lee stood up. "It's not the right time."

"Lee, I — Look, I finally worked out what I want. I want you."

"We'll talk about it tomorrow," said Lee before going into the bathroom and shutting the door.

He cometh up and is cut down like a flower;

Breakfast the next morning was quiet. George never talked much in the mornings, especially when he had a hangover. Ron wasn't sure when he had managed to get drunk. They had been with Arthur until late, welcoming him home. The whole family had sat around the kitchen table and enjoyed Molly's cooking together for the first time in months. He had been sober when they had got home.

Eventually, George shuffled downstairs to open the shop. Ron looked into Lee's face then, at his angular cheekbones and soft nose — but mostly at his full mouth "I still want to kiss you," he said.

Lee took a deep breath. "I don't know why you've changed your mind," he replied. "I don't understand. I can't let myself believe in this. I'm scared that I'll end up being hurt. More than that, though, I can't trust myself. I've been lying awake for the last few hours trying to think this through."

"I don't know either." Ron tried to order his thoughts. It didn't happen. "I just like you. A lot. I think I want to ... I don't know. Be your boyfriend?"

Lee grinned. Immediately, he tried to stop himself, but that just made things worse. "Boyfriend?" he asked. "You think? You don't know?" He managed to bite his lips together.

"I do know. I think. Can we try it? It all makes sense. It makes even more sense when I'm kissing you."

Lee's face split into another smile. "I suppose we'll just have to do some more kissing then. You want to tell George or should I?"

Ron sighed. "We'll do it together. In a bit. After the kissing."

In the midst of life we be in death: of whom may we seek for succor but of thee, O Lord, which for our sins justly art displeased?

It should have been sunny for Ginny and Harry's wedding day, but instead there was a thick mist and the first chill of autumn. Ron stood at the front door next to Harry and greeted the guests with a handshake. Everyone told Ginny she looked beautiful — and she did. They congratulated Harry. Then they got to Ron and most of them didn't know what to say. Most of them had received invitations from Hermione, which had subsequently disappeared in black smoke. Gossip had got round as to why that had happened and, while it was delicious to discuss it behind his back, it was daunting to be actually faced with him.

Ron was just grateful that Harry and Ginny had changed their minds about including the bridesmaids in the formal line-up. It was going to be difficult enough sitting at the top table with Hermione. One day, he hoped, they could be friends again. It was too soon now.

Molly had tried to balance being supportive of Ron, with being sympathetic towards Hermione, but in the end had settled for concentrating on Arthur instead. Ginny and Harry had been torn and apologetic; Percy had bundled Hermione off to talk to some Mediwitch he somehow knew, called Audrey, but had been too embarrassed to mention the situation to Ron; George had been struck dumb, but then had laughed like a drain. He was the only one who had teased Ron about being so irresistible that he could drive a girl mad. When he'd been told who Ron actually was seeing, that had rendered him speechless again. He was still the only person who knew.

Aunt Muriel was never one to be lost for words, however. She told Ginny that she was revealing far too much cleavage and that she was getting married too young; she warned Harry not to go getting her Great Niece in the family way at the first opportunity the way his parents had done things; then she told Ron to make the most of being best man because he had just thrown away the only chance he had ever had of getting married himself.

"I ... I might do!" Ron spluttered indignantly. Harry nudged him, and he did know full well that he should just ignore her, but he couldn't help reacting.

"Nonsense! Or have you found some other silly girl willing to take you on?" she asked cynically.

"Actually, I have got a partner!" Ron snapped.

Muriel raised an eyebrow. "Really?" She looked around. "Little boys shouldn't tell lies. It just goes to show that you are far too immature to be wearing that formal dress robe. Such positions of responsibility shouldn't be given to foolish children."

Ron reddened at being called a liar. How dare she? She might have lived longer than he had, but she hadn't seen or done as much as him, had never been through the things that he had. "Yes really! You think it's impossible for someone to fall in love with me? You think I'm that pathetic?"

"Where is this fantasy girlfriend of yours, then?" asked Muriel.

"What if it's not a girl? Why would it have to be a girl? Actually, he's ..." Ron searched the approaching guests for Lee's dreadlocks.

Slowly he became aware of the stares of everyone else in the room. His mother had paused half-way through settling his father into his seat at the top table. Arthur looked confused. Of course, he often did these days.

Hermione was the only person not looking at him. She was staring at the floor, chewing at her lips, while Luna — dressed identically and looking completely different — pressed a glass into her hand. Hermione snatched it and downed it; Ron realised that he'd never seen Hermione getting seriously drunk.

"Ron? Mate?" Harry asked. The two words asked a dozen questions.

Ron felt cold and hot all at once.

"Arthur!" Muriel called out in her ringing voice. "Why didn't you tell me you'd raised a pooftah?" She turned back to Ron. "I don't believe in these homosexual civil partnerships, so I wouldn't attend even if you did manage to get your nancy boy to agree to commit to you."

"Well that's all right!" Ron found himself shouting. "Because we wouldn't invite you!"

"Ron, calm down," Harry said, but Ron was too angry to hear him.

Muriel looked terribly pleased with herself; Ginny looked furious at being upstaged.

"It's all pure fantasy," Muriel remarked loudly to the person behind her, who, Ron suddenly realised to his horror, was Hermione's father. "Nobody in their right mind would be prepared to take him on. Just look at him." Douglas Granger looked like he wished he knew how to hex.

"He looks perfect," boomed a sonorus ed voice over the hubbub. Ron knew that voice; it was calming him and warming him already. The crowd parted and Lee's dreads came bobbing through. He opened his arms and (to a collective gasp of shock) hugged Ron with them.

"We'll be back in time for the speeches," Lee reassured Harry at a normal volume.

"You? What?" Harry asked.

"I'll just go and calm him down for a bit," Lee explained.

Ron rested his head on Lee's shoulder. He allowed himself to be steered away from the house, from the chatter, from all the people. They stopped on the other side of the garden. The mist was beginning to lift and watery sunshine cast some little light on them, but no heat.

Lee turned so that he faced Ron again. "You alright?"

Ron shrugged and let himself relax into the embrace. "I think I just outed us to everyone we've ever met."

"Gets it out of the way," Lee purred.

"Come on." Ron pulled back far enough to take Lee's hand and walk him across the garden. "I was going to take you here later tonight, but as we've managed to sneak off, it might as well be now."

"That's how you do sneaking? You were our great hope against Voldemort? Glad I didn't know how inept you were at avoiding notice at the time."

"That was nothing! We snuck out of Gringott's on a dragon's back."

When Lee realised where they were going to, he stopped and said, "No."

"Yes," Ron insisted. "Make it right again."

"I don't ever want to go up there again. I'm surprised you do."

"We've got to exorcise it. I want to stop being afraid of the tree-house." Ron pulled on Lee's arm. "Do things right this time." He let go of Lee's hand and climbed up the rope ladder. He sat on the bare wood floor and waited for his boyfriend to join him.

When Lee's head emerged into the space, Ron crawled over and kissed him.

"I need a drink," Lee said.

Ron shook his head. "Doing things right this time," he repeated. He dragged Lee over to the window. The wedding guests were beginning to filter out onto the dewy lawn. So many people. They were all at a bit of a loss, because this was the time which had been scheduled for the photographer, only with the low visibility and the loss of the Best Man, she wasn't able to herd them into positions and record the happy day.

"I don't know what possessed me. The last time," Lee said. "I didn't think you'd ever forgive me. Every time you looked at me I could see you reliving it."

"That's why we're here. This is going to become our happy place; I need to take it out of my nightmares." Ron kissed Lee. "You're not a monster."

"Am I not? I don't deserve you," Lee mumbled.

They melded together into a deep kiss in full view of any of the guests who might have chosen to look up. Then they broke apart as Ron took Lee into the darkest corner. "I think it was here," he said.

"I don't know." Lee was shaking. "I can't —"

"Yes, you can." Ron held Lee's upper arms firmly. "Now. Properly. Lee, please can I kiss you?"

Lee nodded, shakily, his eyes closed. "I don't like the smell of this place," he muttered.

Then his mouth was covered by Ron's. They kissed softly. "Lee?" Ron whispered.

"Uh huh?"

"I want to make love to you."

Lee pulled back sharply. "Here?" He looked around them. "Now?" he asked. "You mean, actually do it?"

"Do it?" Ron raised his eyebrows in mock horror. "How romantic you are!"

"No, come on, Ron. It'll be the wedding feast soon, and the speeches, there's all those people ... We've got a nice soft bed and a bedroom door we can close at home. Well, George's place. We'll send him to the pub, make him sleep on the sofa."

"I thought you wanted to."

"You know I do. Merlin, boy! It's been killing me for years how much I want you!"

"Then let's make love. I want it, too, Lee. Now. Here." He looked into Lee's doubtful face. "Otherwise I'll make you wait another week."

Lee ran his hands down Ron's sides. "You look fantastic in formal robes. We don't want to get these all mucky, do we?"

"Better take them off, then," Ron murmured into Lee's ear. The hard, warm shell played against his lips.

Lee stepped back and stared at Ron as though hypnotised by him. Slowly, he reached out a shaking hand and touched his fingertips to one of the gold buttons on his red cloak. "You didn't mean it, did you?" he said, his gaze fixed on the lion engraved into the button. "It was just temper, wasn't it?"

"What was?"

"You're not going to marry me. This is just a short term thing. I'll have to learn to live without you again, won't I?"

"Oh, that." Ron grabbed hold of Lee's collar and pulled him close, kissing him to buy time to think through what his reply to that was. "Too early to say," he said eventually. "But I can't imagine being with anyone else. I'm not playing, if that's what you think. This isn't an experiment. I know how strong your feelings are and I wouldn't mess about with that."

"Do you think you're serious about me?"

"I do think that."

"Good enough for me."

"Now, hurry up and get these robes off me. You said we'd be back in time for the speeches."

"We'd better go back now." Lee stepped away.

"I don't want to," Ron said calmly. "It's up to you, but I really want our first time to be here, to make this place something different for us."

Lee nodded slowly and looked around. "Ok." His voice cracked a little. "So, you undress me."

Fingers shaking, Ron unfastened all the complicated catches on Lee's robes. "You couldn't have decided to do this when we were in jeans and T-shirts?" Lee asked with a laugh, getting to work on Ron's own robes.

"We should have just turned up in pyjama pants," Ron replied.

Lee laughed again. "That would have gone down really well!"

He stepped out of reams of velvet and used his wand to raise both of their outfits to hang in mid-air above their heads. They looked at each other in their underwear.

Lee's body was hard and smooth and dark. It was everything that Lavender was not. Ron had never even looked at photographs of naked men, and he hadn't spent a lot of time assessing his own body. He could see that Lee was different to him, though. It wasn't just because he was a different colour. His shapes were broader; he was more muscular and hairier. Ron put out a hand and ran it down Lee's chest, over his belly, towards the place where his underpants stuck out. He wasn't sure what he was going to do next.

Lee moved closer, slowly and gently. Then he said, "Ron, can I kiss you?"

Ron nodded.

The kiss started out gentle and loving but soon became heated. Their half-dressed bodies pressed against each other and Ron stopped worrying about what he was going to do next and just let it happen. His hands slid down Lee's bare back. He surprised himself by taking hold of the waistband of Lee's underwear and pulling it. The fabric slid easily over Lee's tight buttocks, but caught at the front.

Ron took a deep breath. This was it; he was going to touch another man's cock. He thought it was what he wanted, but he was scared, too. His belly clenched and fluttered with something like stage fright. He ran his thumbs round easily to the front of Lee's body. He could feel Lee freezing and tensing against him.

Ron's left hand pulled the elasticated cotton forwards, his right palm turned to touch Lee's cock. Still their mouths were together and their eyes closed. He wrapped his fingers round and gripped it. Lee moaned. It felt warm and solid; not like his own but not so different either. Ron stroked upwards.

Their mouths fell away from each other as their hands explored each other's bodies. "I love you," Lee gasped, then "Please can I touch you? I want to hold your cock."

"Uh huh," Ron responded as reply to both things.

The fire rose up in him as they stroked each other. It felt natural and good. There was none of the awkwardness which he had expected. He shucked off his own underwear.

"I want to be inside you," Ron found himself muttering.

"Yessss," Lee hissed in a whisper full of hot breath against Ron's throat.

They fell to the floor. It didn't feel harsh and dusty as he had felt it in his nightmares. He was only aware of Lee's body beside him. Lee rolled onto his front and Ron's erection nestled between his buttocks. Ron's hips jerked.

"Not yet!" Lee said in a panicky voice.

"I know," Ron replied. "I'm not."

Lee gripped Ron's fingers and rubbed them against the puckered skin of his hole. Ron couldn't stop his pelvis from thrusting again. He had been planning this; he had remembered to bring along the lubricant, but now he couldn't remember where he had put it. He struggled away from the intoxication of Lee's flesh. He couldn't remember where his wand was either.

Ron tugged on the hem of his dress robes, where they swayed above them. He shook, in blind faith. The vial clattered to the floor. As he retrieved it, Ron thanked his Magical luck.

Lee was looking up at him. His deep, dark eyes were warm with love and lust. His dreads fell haphazardly over his face which — Ron realised with a jolt — was the most beautiful thing in the world. Ron squatted down to brush the hair back, to stroke that lovely face. He knelt and kissed Lee's cheek.

Lee firmly took hold of Ron's hand and placed it back between his buttocks.

"I know, I know," Ron said softly.

He used plenty of lube and both of them used their fingers inside Lee to stretch him for what felt like a long time. Finally Lee said hoarsely, "I'm ready."

Ron knelt between Lee's shining thighs and Lee lifted his arse towards him. It was all too glorious. Ron pushed inside.

Of course, neither of them lasted long that first time. Lee had been waiting for years, thinking and dreaming of it and not believing, most of the time, that it would ever happen. Ron had never penetrated anyone before, had never felt heated flesh clenching round his cock, the rub of anyone's inner walls against him. They both came at almost the same time, panting and grunting, then falling together onto the bare wood floor.

They were lying there — breathing, cooling, not yet thinking — when the gong from the house announced the feast.

I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, From henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: even so saith the Spirit: for they rest from their labours.