A/N: Thank you so very much to my lovely emmacmf for the beta... and also, just for being amazing. xx
Prompt: #18, suggested by lillywmw
"I could die right now. I'm just... happy. I've never felt that before. I'm just exactly where I want to be." - Joel, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
His Right and His Left
Pale, bony fingers, raised knuckles and ginger freckles. Funny how they matched his hair, nearly the exact same shade. Long bones between finger joints, roughened skin over palms, and a purpling bruise across the first set of knuckles on his right hand, aftermath of a frantic punch he hardly remembered giving.
Hollow stomach, sunk lower by lying on his back. Smooth white skin gliding over prominent hipbones where they peeked from between his low riding pyjama bottoms and the bottom hem of his thin, faded t-shirt. In other days, the distant rumble deep within his stomach would have spurred him from his rest to the kitchens, but not today.
Large feet, flexing as he stretched them, testing the way the nearly torn muscles moved against visible tendons, relief at their rest, at last. A long, thin gash from left ankle to big toe where, hours ago, a piece of falling debris had struck wordlessly through his trainer.
Thick, over-long ginger hair, fringe low across his forehead, jagged part from above his left eyebrow to where shaggy length prevented further definition. The weathered brightness of each strand of hair clashed mesmerizingly with the Gryffindor burgundy pillow beneath his head.
Crystal blue eyes, eyelashes nearly as pale as his skin, fluttering as he blinked. Soft skin creasing at the corners of his eyes as he smiled. Unfamiliar territory. Light purple and blue veins revealed through the thin skin of his eyelids as they sagged, weary and somehow content.
A deep, scratchy voice spoke, and he looked to his left.
Slightly smaller hands, pale unfreckled skin marred with cuts and bruises. Fingers twisting, knuckles bending, as if remembering how things worked, as if dying once, for such a short time, had made him forget how to use his body.
Stomach flat as he turned his head and shoulders inward, flushed relief as the muscles rolled beneath his clothing. War-received bruises surly hidden under his black t-shirt. A myriad of silent gratitude and the shock of survival somehow etched into the very stretch of his revived skin.
Slightly smaller feet than those of the man lying to his right, stretched skin over shorter tendons, calloused toes and broken nails. Protruding ankle bones under freckle-free skin, a mysterious burn mark the size of a sickle on the joint of his right big toe.
Jet black hair, messy and nearly shoulder length now, still shower-damp and finger-combed. Patches stuck out at all angles, a common sight, a familiar reassurance. Uneven part, unpredictable as he turned his head more towards his right, crooked smile to match.
Deep green eyes, resting beneath two circular glass pieces, rimmed with rusted metal, bent from repeated repair at the center joint. Nearly black eyelashes falling against cheeks as he closed his eyes for a moment. A healthy ratio of disbelief to exhaustion radiated from gleaming whites and pupils beneath every blink. And above his eyebrow, the fading deep red of a scar so recently ignited with purpose and determination.
Watching him now, pale pink lips smiled, puffing up heavily freckled cheeks, as the lungs of his best mate, survivor, breathed in and out beneath a strong chest. So here they lived. It was true...
And then, a softer, perfect voice called his three-lettered name... and he looked right.
Thin fingers, smooth knuckles under warm, creamy skin, marred now by scratches and pricks, a mole at the base of her left thumb, happily familiar, a tiny reminder of home. Faded ink stains and longer nails than usual, a comforting change now that the air was still and silent, holding no threat or distant echo of impending danger.
Red cotton tank top, rumpled and too large against her thin torso, smaller now than months ago, ribs defined through thin material as she stretched, hypnotizing him. Her breath, life, clear from the motion of her stomach, up and down, hipbones strained further against the top elastic of her pyjamas just before she turned inward, shyly sliding further towards the center.
Smaller feet, gentle curves of ankle and joint, cut skin taut over delicate bones. Toes moving, stretching and kneading the sheet beneath them before edging ever so slightly towards a freckled right shin, poking from beneath his own too-short pyjamas.
A tornado of thick brown curls, fluffed up above her head, so close to his flushed cheek on her left, almost as if each strand of her hair itself desired proximity to him as much as the rest of her body did. A mess of too-long fringe shoved haphazardly to the side, tucked as well as could be managed behind her left ear.
Shimmering bronze eyes, nearly the exact same shade as his favourite chocolate, and it was curious to wonder whether he'd selected one based on the other, and which he'd picked first. Eyelashes naturally curled up, blinks sharp and accented by her obvious desire to remain looking at him, not to lose sight even for a fraction of a second.
As she slid closer, he reached across his body with his large left hand, fingers dancing up her wrist, forearm, and finally approaching her elbow as she submitted to her magnetic wish and turned onto her left side completely, lips turned up as soft, warm eyes latched onto sparkling blue ones.
He swallowed, an effort to calm himself against the intensity of her gaze, unwavering. Her fingers touched his ribs, almost insensible, so light against his t-shirt. But slowly, she looked down, watched her own hand's path from ribs to sternum as she settled her palm flat against his chest.
To his left, an ankle knocked against his, settled, and finally stopped moving, light pressure some constant reminder of life through warm skin. And to his right, his heart pounding exclusively for an index finger tip, rubbing a tiny circle against his shirt, a little nose, wrinkling up as she sniffed, small patches of freckles on pink tinged cheeks, front teeth worrying at a chapped bottom lip, questioning eyes, unable to rest without a verbal affirmation, one he could hardly say, though he could think of little else he needed, nothing else, than this... his right and his left.
"Ron," she exhaled, and he grinned, head sliding against his pillowcase until his forehead met hers, a short journey from where he'd been before, but enough to give her some kind of clarity.
He opened his mouth to speak, but the feeling of a warm forehead now against his left shoulder caused him to separate and turn again in the other direction. A head of black hair lifted, shaggy and falling over green eyes as he smiled and blinked, settling back to his original position.
A knowing raise of eyebrows shared between them as a little hand curled further into Ron's t-shirt, nails grazing his skin through cotton.
"Remember when I stopped you?" Harry asked, voice heavy and laced with exhaustion, though a thick black eyebrow raised playfully.
"Stopped..." Ron began, searching for explanation.
"Oi..." Harry tried, nudging Ron's bicep with his wrist.
Ron laughed as Hermione snuggled against him on his other side. She reached across Ron's body and took Harry's hand, lifting her head to glare at him over Ron's chest.
"You're lucky I couldn't hear you right away," she said.
"Couldn't hear me?" Harry repeated, smiling crookedly at her.
"Heart was beating in my ears," she admitted as she lowered her head shyly to Ron's chest and dropped Harry's hand to clutch Ron's shoulder, her hair fluffing up over his nose and mouth. He lifted a hand to tame it.
"So... go on then. Won't stop you this time," Harry said, looking between Ron and Hermione as Ron's smile turned dazed and dreamy. Harry stretched his legs, eyes drooping as his foot abandoned Ron's ankle. And Ron jostled underneath Hermione until she lifted her head to look down at him, his left hand tangled tightly in her hair.
And then, Ron did something he'd never done before. He didn't wait to think about his options. He didn't look into her eyes and try to figure out what she wanted him to do. He didn't second guess his forwardness as he pulled her back down towards him.
A cold nose touched his. He tilted his head against his pillow... and a warm breath cascaded over his lips before they were suddenly so much more important. Lips from which a string of impressive curses had flown during battle and chess games alike... now pressed against lips from which the correct answer to every asked question would pour, a string of perfectly constructed sentences after a sharply raised hand was called upon. And nothing had ever made more sense, no words or breaths or sighs or groans... just two angles together, stacked one between the other, parting softly as he felt her heart pound against him so acutely that it could have somehow leapt out of her and found a place lodged just next to his own heart, inside his own chest.
Two large freckled hands slid across her back, palms flat and shaking as they crossed each other, meeting for a moment in the middle between her shoulder blades before passing and curving down her sides, a tight hold against her torso, keeping her flat on top of him now as her soft, cold hands covered his red hot cheeks, tenderly moving fingers through the new stubble along his jaw, curls of ginger hair behind each ear.
Her lips parted further against his to answer a question... love confirmed as her tongue slid into his mouth. And his unsteady lungs required air, oxygen pulled raggedly through his long nose as he could not bring himself to part from her, even long enough to breathe properly. And her nervous tongue met his. A tongue that never bit back a joke once it was formed... now entwined with a tongue that always perfectly enunciated each syllable of an over rehearsed plan.
Her hands were in his hair now, nails raking across his scalp. His hands moved into her hair too, rough skin through frizzy curls. Warm sparks between souls so close even when so far apart, as they had been so often through their rows. Years and history and relief in clashed teeth as she dropped her weight solidly on top of him, unable to support herself, lost in their second kiss, soon to be tangled up with so much future, so much that Ron was sure one day he'd lose count altogether.
And finally, immersed in what they'd just done, Hermione lifted her head just enough to separate her lips from his. He opened his sore eyes, eager to look back into hers now, hungry for the nervous aftermath of newly discovered intimacy.
She breathed through her mouth, accepting the air between them into her lungs. And she laughed, a silent rumble through her chest as she grinned, somehow mischievous and timid at the same time. A new version of Ron's signature smirk was born just for this, something that could only be produced by the finality of their unspoken promises.
Distantly, he heard the deep, even breaths of the near-sleeping person to his left. And at the same moment, Ron and Hermione turned their heads towards their best friend.
"We bored him to sleep," Ron whispered, fingers still hopelessly weaved into Hermione's hair.
"Not quite," Harry said, surprising them with a lazy smile as he cracked open his eyes.
Three bodies shifted until they lay side by side once more, Ron and Hermione's hands clasped tightly together as Ron finally untwisted and untangled himself from their recent embrace. The empty void that awaited him when she moved away was chilling, like some stealthy bond had sealed while they'd been preoccupied with their kiss. And what if she ever got up from this bed, ever walked away from him? He squeezed her hand so tight the freckles on his knuckles turned white.
She turned her head to look into his eyes.
The idea of loss, of what could have been, still burned through him. And now, when he saw them together, life pulsing through veins... now was when it ached the most.
"If Dumbledore hadn't understood me so well..." An open-ended statement, explanation known only by the two people on either side of him.
"If he hadn't understood us all so well, we... might not be here right now. We'd still be lost," Hermione said reasonably, clearing her throat as she reached across her stomach with her right hand, fingers running up Ron's left arm, tiny ginger hairs standing on end both from the sound of her soothing voice and the explanation that she'd given, as she always could. Though there was always a what if, it was quieter and simpler to look at the whole picture now that it was really, truly over.
"Every single thing that happened could have happened differently," Harry said as Ron and Hermione stared up at the ceiling, distant, forward through a thick tunnel of opaque burgundy drapes, encasing them in their own private world. "But it didn't."
It was so simple and true, and it could have been laughable, the fact that it needed stating at all, but silence engulfed them as they breathed, letting the words sink in.
"I was so afraid we'd snuff it," Ron said, and Harry snorted with suppressed laughter. "No really," Ron grinned, blue eyes still focused on the stone ceiling overhead, though he could feel bronze and green turn inward, two sets of beautiful eyes focused on him as he continued. "Mostly, I was afraid one of you would..." He sniffed, wounds so near the surface as he remembered things he wanted to cast aside, at least for tonight. "Hermione at the Malfoys'," he said, voice steady from anger, though it would have cracked into a million pieces had justice not been served hours ago. "And Harry... I dunno. Every day it was a miracle to see all three of us still breathing."
He felt Hermione's head move to rest lightly against his shoulder as she placed it there at an angle that still allowed her to watch his eyes as they blinked a bit more rapidly than before. He felt Harry's foot against his ankle again, a reassuring touch of survival.
"Now..." Ron said, breathing solidly again as he embraced his sudden lack of fear, the disappearance of an enemy that had become a natural part of every day life, "it's strange, but I'm not afraid of a sodding thing. Death could walk in here from the bloody Three Brothers story and curse me to hell..."
Harry laughed but Hermione stiffened slightly.
"Me too," Harry said, and Hermione raised her head again to look, dumbfounded, at Harry across Ron's body.
"You two are mental," she said. Ron grinned and looked over, finally, into her eyes again.
"No," Ron breathed, "just too bleeding happy."
Slowly, she smiled back, leaned forward... rested her forehead against his.
"Where do we go from here?" she asked, wonder in her eyes at the idea of opportunity.
"Who cares?" Ron grinned.
In answer, Hermione's toes flexed against Ron's leg, edging up under his pyjama bottoms, sliding along his furry skin. He squeezed her close, inhaling the natural scent of her skin mingled with the standard lavatory shampoo that each dormitory was equipped with. And all at once, he was assaulted with familiarity woven tightly into the brand new, holding a living, breathing person in his arms, a person he loved more than his own life. Did she know, really, deep down?
And he wanted to tell her, regardless of the shifting body on his left. He had to say it. Now.
"I love you," he whispered into her perfect brown curls, sprouting with chaos from her head.
She looked up and met his eyes with her own, confirming their future as her fist clenched his shirt involuntarily.
"Do you?" she asked, lips curving excessively over each tiny word.
"Of course he does," Harry said from Ron's left, breaking through their bubble again, reminding them of his presence.
Ron blushed, unaware that Harry had even heard his admission. But he couldn't keep his grin at bay, and it blossomed across his relieved face as Hermione allowed her appreciation of his words to move from eyes to cheeks to each fresh line across her face as her smile broke out through the formerly calm waters of her delicate skin.
"Of course I do," Ron laughed as Harry nudged him with his foot.
"Marry me," she sighed, burying her face in Ron's armpit as he tensed with alarm.
Harry broke out laughing, squeezing Ron's arm briefly to remind him to breathe. Ron clutched Harry's arm in return, clenching so tight it was surely painful. And, forcing himself to speak, Ron dragged words free from that distant dictionary he'd built on throughout the years, the one buried in swear words and Quidditch terms that clung for its position somewhere close to an abundantly overflowing teaspoon of emotion.
"But I'm a tosser," and with wide glistening eyes and pounding heart, he'd not quite managed what he may have intended, but had somehow managed something even better... only realized when Hermione's body moved against his with electricity, face suddenly level with his, swollen lips pressed to his before he could blink.
She broke the kiss again just as he'd remembered how to kiss in the first place, and her impossibly wide smile shone down at him as brightly as her tear filled eyes.
They stared at one another, breathing as Harry settled down beside them.
"Go on and say yes, bloody prat," Harry grinned, bumping his shoulder against Ron's.
"You really want..." but he stopped, swallowed, and shook his head. Sod being rational. Sheer miracles granted, alight in every nearly impossible move of the animated bodies on his right and his left...
"I was a bit overwhelmed, I'll admit. But yes, I did mean it," she said quickly, blushing as Harry smirked at her. "Of course I would. I mean, you knew. You must have had some idea..." A line of nervous overcompensation he was so achingly familiar with. "So are you going to answer me or just keep gawking at me? Ron, you're making me nerv-"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes," he interrupted joyfully, flattening Hermione's body against his, arms locked around her, rolling comically back and forth across the bed, knocking into Harry quite roughly. When he finally stopped, Harry shoved him again and Hermione pressed her forehead to his. "You're mental! Have I told you lately?" Ron laughed, heart now pounding in perfect sync with Hermione's.
Hermione nodded and kissed his nose.
"I love you," she whispered, rubbing her soft cheek against his rougher one.
And Ron felt movement at his left, Harry trying to discreetly leave them alone. But Ron lifted his left arm and gathered Harry back to him.
"Come here, you," he said, sighing and laughing simultaneously. "Fuck! You're alive, Harry! You're really... and you!" he squeezed Hermione against his right side with renewed passion. "Apparently I'm engaged to you now!"
"Apparently," Hermione chuckled, rolling her eyes in Harry's direction.
Legs tangled together until none could discern their own from the others. Ron felt Hermione's lips against his neck. And hearts beat solidly, surely, insistently. Not one, or two... but three.
No more running. No more hiding. They could be anything they wanted, do anything they wanted. Who knew what would happen in the morning? They had no real plans outside of this bed, beyond the healing of their wounds. It felt incredible.
And as they breathed, Ron sensed his life not only within his own lanky frame, but in the warmth of the two people in his arms. Did they feel it too?
Horcruxes, he thought, as his eyes closed. Though he'd surely have to think of another word for it in the morning. He was a whole person, though split in three. Each piece guarded by a life. He gladly relinquished his hold on himself. Though he'd loosened his grip years ago.
They belonged to each other, mingled so tightly within one another. Like a knotted plait, permanently stuck. Knowing now that a future existed, deeply and utterly tangled is where he found he was finally free.