"Harry! Wait! Come back!" Ron called, running as fast as his long legs would take him yet somehow Harry continued to outpace him.
"Harry! Please!" Ron called. He tripped, his feet flying, arms flailing, he tried to catch himself but instead landed in a large heap on the floor.
Ron groaned, taking the time to catch his breath. Slowly he pulled himself up, he definitely hurt, but nothing seemed broken. Not that there would be anything broken, he'd only fallen his own height after all.
Ron looked around at the darkened hallways of Hogwarts, seeming ever more ominous. Harry was long gone. God only knows where. Ron groaned and buried his head in his knees. Now he was never going to find him. And Harry was probably going to lock himself in a hole somewhere and fill himself with self hate and it was all Ron's bloody fault. If only he hadn't been so stupid.
"Fuck," Ron groaned, pushing himself to his feet. His legs were sore but he stumbled forward anyway. He was going to find Harry if it killed him, because no way was Harry going to be alone, not tonight, not ever. Stumbling along, checking every classroom and corridor that came his way, Ron's mind wandered back to the dumbest mistake he'd ever made, and the reason Harry ran.
Ron was contenting himself by staring at the large clear blue sky that the ceiling of the great hall was showing. Perfect Quidditch conditions. Maybe he could convince Harry to come and toss around a quaffle with him. Quidditch season was over, but that didn't mean they couldn't still have a little fun.
"What on earth are you staring at Ron?" Hermione asked.
"The sky, it's so blue," Ron replied cheerfully.
"You sound like a romantic," Hermione noted.
"Would that impression be ruined if I said I only noticed it because it's perfect Quidditch conditions?" Ron said.
"It just was," Hermione replied.
"So, where's Harry?" Ron asked.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"I told you already Ron," she said, "he came down, grabbed some toast, muttered something about having to do something and ran off."
"So… you think he might be in the library?" Hermione gave him a look.
"I thought I told you I don't know."
"I know, I know, but you've got to at least have some guesses."
Hermione shrugged, "well, I suppose he could be in the library," she said.
"Great! See you Hermione!" Ron said, grabbing a piece of toast for the road and quickly making his way to the library. Which was promptly Harry-less. Ron groaned. Where on earth could he be? He glanced around, deciding that he would check outside.
Outside it was also Harry-less.
Still no Harry.
Not there either.
Equally as devoid of Harry.
"Ron! There you are!" Hermione called, rushing up to him.
"Hey Hermione," Ron said, "seen Harry?"
"Still looking for him?"
"What else would I be doing?" Ron asked.
"Ron it's been two hours."
"Oh, well," Ron shrugged, "what else would I be doing?" he repeated.
"Oh, I don't know, you couldn't possibly be studying for your NEWTs," Hermione said.
"Those again? Why can't I just fail? You know I've already got a promised position with the aurors."
"They could change their minds once they see your marks," Hermione reprimanded, "besides, you shouldn't be resting on your laurels, just because you helped defeat Voldemort and all that, I mean, Harry isn't doing that."
"Speaking of which, you sure you haven't seen him?" Ron asked.
"No Ron, I haven't, and God you're getting annoying with your constant asking about him, always looking for him, yesterday, the day before that, the day before that, and the day before that, what is it between you two anyway?"
"He's my friend," Ron said.
"Well I know that, but I mean, you're always looking for him, always looking for him and worrying about him, don't you think it's a bit odd?"
Ron thought for a moment, "no."
"Then why are you always looking for him?"
"Because I can't find him."
"Why do you worry so much?"
Ron shrugged, "I just don't want him to be lonely and then me not be there."
"Are you sure there's nothing else going on?"
"Oh never mind, just come on, lets go study, Harry's probably fine, he'll show up eventually, he always does."
"Are you sure?"
"Okay, okay, fine! I'm coming, but you're absolutely positive?"
Hermione just shot him a look.
Ron was nibbling on the end of his quill, his eyes nervously glancing back at the portrait hole every few minutes. Okay, maybe seconds.
"Ron, are you even paying attention?" Hermione asked.
"Five hours," Ron said.
"Five hours since what?"
"Five hours since we haven't seen Harry," Ron said.
"Ron, please, Harry's a grown man and is perfectly capable of taking care of himself, stop worrying about him."
"But he missed lunch."
"Just because you would rather die than miss a meal doesn't mean Harry's the same way," Hermione said, "besides, he's right there."
"What?" Ron's head whirled around to the portrait hole just as Harry crawled out of it, straightening up before scanning the room. Ron raised his hand, waving him over. Harry spotted them and made his way over, keeping his head down.
"Where were you?" Ron asked the moment Harry sat down.
"Walk," Harry said.
"For five hours?"
"Long walk," Harry replied. Ron was silent for a moment, he carefully studied his best friend. Harry's head was down, with his eyes fixed firmly on his shoelaces. He looked to be a bit out of it, and seemed insistent on not looking at Ron. Ever.
Harry picked at a hole forming in his leans, only making it larger.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Ron asked. Harry nodded. "Because you've been off for the last few weeks."
"I'm fine Ron, really," Harry said. Ron didn't believe him.
"Well… are you hungry?" Ron finally settled on asking.
Harry shook his head.
"But you missed lunch."
"I'm fine," Harry said. Ron let out a large sigh. Harry would talk to him eventually, right? At least he hoped he would.
Harry leaned forward, grabbing one of Hermione's books, which she wasn't using, and began reading it. Ron turned back to the studying he was supposed to be doing, still tossing Harry occasional glances, just in case. Harry just sat there staring at the book. On would say 'reading' except that Harry never actually turned any pages so more than likely he was just pretending to read it so that he would have a reason to not talk to Ron. Figures. Always like Harry trying to keep all his problems to himself.
"Hey, Ron! Harry! Hermione!" Seamus called, making his way over to them from across the room.
"Hey Seamus!" Ron called.
"C'mon, come up to the boys dorm," Seamus said eagerly.
"Why?" Hermione asked suspiciously.
Seamus just gave a wicked grin.
"You'll see." Reluctantly the three followed, they arrived to find that most of their year in Gryffindor had gathered there.
"What's going on?" Hermione asked.
"We're playing a game!" Seamus said eagerly.
"What game?" Hermione asked.
"Truth or dare!" Parvati said eagerly.
"Really?" Hermione asked, incredulous, "you're playing children's party games?"
"In out defense most of us have never heard of it," Seamus said.
"It's okay Hermione, I thought it was stupid to," Dean said.
"It was your idea," Seamus replied.
"No, I was just telling you about it and you were the one that insisted we should all play."
"Well then you shouldn't have told me."
"You shouldn't have asked."
"Can we just get to the game?" Lavender asked, "children's game or not, I think it sounds like we could get some majorly juicy gossip out of this." She smirked, flipping her hair over her shoulder.
"Fine," Hermione groaned, sitting down, Harry and Ron following suit, "I'll play your stupid game." Seamus grinned.
"Great! But, we have a twist that I bet the muggles don't have," he said proudly.
"And that would be?" Hermione asked. Seamus revealed a vial of clear liquid.
"Veritaserum," Seamus said, "and everybody has to take a sip."
"I'm not drinking that," Harry said firmly.
"Oh come on Harry," Seamus said, "it won't hurt."
"Aside from the fact that it's highly illegal unless being used during extreme cases in the court," Hermione pointed out.
"It's not like anyone cares, a few teens playing a game," Seamus replied.
"I'm still not drinking that," Harry insisted.
"Oh come on," Seamus said, "scared?"
"No, I just don't want to drink it," Harry said.
"I thought you were supposed to be brave and daring or something like that."
"Just leave him," Ron said. Seamus shot him a look that screamed 'traitor.'
"C'mon Harry," Seamus said, "what have you got to hide?"
"Well, clearly it seems like you've got to have something, otherwise there'd be no problem with a few drops."
"I said, there's nothing."
"Then what are you so scared of?"
"I'm no… oh just give me that," Harry said angrily, grabbing the vial and taking the tiniest of sips before tossing it back to Seamus.
"There, happy?" he said angrily. Seamus grinned.
"Excellent, now for everybody else," Seamus said, passing the vial around. Everyone, even Hermione, took a sip.
"So, where to we begin?" Parvati asked.
"Anywhere I suppose," Seamus said, "who wants to start?"
"Ooh! Me!" Lavender said eagerly.
"Okay then, you start."
"Great! So, um… Neville! Truth or dare?" Lavender asked.
"So… who do you like?"
Neville thought for a moment, "no one actually," he said.
Lavender groaned, "that's so boring!" she wined.
"Okay Neville, your turn," Seamus said.
"Uh, Ron, truth or dare?"
"Dare." Ron said.
"I don't know guys, what should I dare him to do?" Neville said.
"Ooh! I know!" Lavender said eagerly, "make him kiss someone!"
"No, that's mean," Neville said.
"Fine, at least make him hold someone's hand," Lavender said.
"Uhh, Ron, hold Hermione's hand for a minute."
"Hermione's hand?" Lavender groaned, "but that's so boring!"
"Everything is boring to you," Hermione noted. Lavender shot her a glared.
"Well if Hermione is too boring then who's hand should I have him hold?" Neville asked.
"Do someone interesting, make it scandalous!" Lavender said eagerly, "ooh! I know! Make him hold Harry's hand!"
"Fine, Ron, hold Harry's hand for a minute." Ron turned his head to look at Harry who still had his eyes fixed firmly on his shoelaces.
"Harry?" Ron said timidly. Harry didn't respond for a minute, before finally he lifted his hand off his lap, holding it out in the air. Ron took it, intertwining their fingers and then letting their two clasped hands dangle between them. And honestly, holding Harry's hand, it felt… nice.
"Aww! That's so cute!" Lavender gushed. Harry still wouldn't look up.
"My turn now?" Ron asked.
"Yep," Seamus confirmed. Ron scanned the room, before landing on the most obvious person.
"Harry, truth or dare?" Ron asked. Harry said nothing for the longest time.
"I think he has to do truth because otherwise if he did a dare he might have to let go of Ron's hand which would break Ron's dare," Lavender said.
"That's so not a rule," Hermione said.
"Well it should be."
"Girls, just shut up," Seamus said, both Hermione and Lavender went silent, "it's Harry's choice anyway."
"Truth," Harry said quietly.
"Okay then, umm… any ideas?" he looked to his classmates.
"Ask him who he fancies!" Lavender said.
"We already know that," Neville said, "Ginny obviously."
"Well why haven't they gotten back together then?" Lavender retorted.
"You realize he's sitting right there," Hermione pointed out. Lavender shrugged.
"Whatever, just ask him who he fancies."
"Harry, who do you fancy?" Ron asked, realizing too late that that was the absolute wrong question to ask as he instantly became aware to the look of absolute terror on Harry's face, his mouth clasped shut in a thin line as he tried to fight off the veritaserum.
"Come on Harry, you have to answer," Seamus said. Harry shook his head rapidly, clasping his hand over his mouth.
"Harry, it's okay," Hermione said gently, "we won't judge you."
"You don't have to answer if you don't want to," Ron said. But it was too late, the veritaserum only paid attention to questions asked, not those taken back.
"It's not like it's a big deal, God," Lavender said offhandedly, though even Ron could see that she looked eager for some drama and gossip.
"It's okay Harry, just answer and we'll all pretend to have never heard anything and it'll be like nothing was ever said, it's fine if it's not my sister, of if it's someone weird or something, Hermione's right, we're not going to judge you," Ron said. Harry looked up. And Ron was surprised to see a fresh set of tears inching down his cheeks.
Harry moved his hand from over his mouth.
"Yes you will judge," he said quietly, "and you'll never be able to pretend you never heard anything because I fancy you." Harry let their two intertwined hands slip, and fall apart. The whole room was deathly silent.
"You're kidding, right?" Ron said. And wished he could have taken it back. Because the absolutely heartbroken look in Harry's eyes when he looked back up nearly destroyed Ron.
"Never mind," Harry said quietly, and ran.
Which brought Ron back to his current predicament. He may not have broken anything in his fall, but his ankle was sure giving him hell anyway. Ron opened another door, checking the classroom, still no Harry. Ron mentally reminded himself to never play hide and seek with Harry. Ever.
"Ron! Hey Ron!" Ron turned around to find Hermione rushing toward him.
"Not now Hermione," Ron groaned, "I've got to find Harry."
"I know!" Hermione said, coming up next to him, "and you forgot this." She thrust a blank sheet of parchment into his hands.
"What on earth am I going to do with…" Ron stared at the parchment in his hand, recognizing it now, "it's the Marauders map!" he said excitedly.
"Yes you dolt," Hermione said, "now hurry up and go find Harry."
Ron quickly pulled out his wand, taping the parchment and muttering "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Black lines appeared on the parchment, and Ron and Hermione quickly began studying the small moving dots, searching for Harry's name.
"There!" Ron said eagerly, pointing to a small black dot marked Harry, sitting in the astronomy tower. He quickly folded up the map, shoving it in his pocket and heading toward the astronomy tower.
"Wait!" Hermione called.
"What?" Ron asked, turning around.
"What are you going to do?" she asked. Ron paused. He shrugged.
"I don't know," he admitted, "make things right I guess."
"With the truth," Ron replied.
"And what's the truth?" Hermione asked.
"I dunno," Ron said, "you tell me, do guys usually spend most of every day looking for their friend that keeps wandering off because they're worried that he might be lonely because they're not there to be with them?"
"But I think you've already figured it out," Ron interrupted, "now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find Harry." He turned around and determinedly began his march up to the astronomy tower.
The ladder was the hardest, especially with his ankle. But he did it anyway, finally pulling himself up into the astronomy tower.
Harry was there just as the map said, seated against the far wall, his legs curled up to his chest with his arms wrapped around them, he eyes Ron suspiciously.
"What do you want?" Harry asked.
"You," Ron replied simply.
Harry turned his head, "you don't have to pretend to like me, you know," he said, "besides, you just think it's all a big joke anyway."
"No I'm don't."
"Yes you do."
"No, actually I don't."
Harry turned back to face him.
"Oh really then? Then what was that 'you're kidding' back there? Clearly you were taking everything perfectly seriously." He turned away.
"Harry, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that and I wish I didn't, I was just caught off guard." Harry's eyed flickered back towards Ron.
"You don't have to lie just to cheer me up," Harry said, "be as honest as you want, I can handle it. You're probably disgusted, aren't you."
"If I was disgusted and didn't care would I have freaking scoured the entire school looking for you and then climbed up that blasted ladder on this stupid ankle of mine?" Concern instantly crossed Harry's face.
"What's wrong with your ankle?" Harry asked.
Ron shrugged, "dunno, I tripped, it's sore, not much else to it, but my ankle isn't the point."
"Here let me…" Harry grabbed his wand, moving forward toward Ron, reaching out to grab Ron's ankle he suddenly stopped.
"I'm sorry," Harry said, "you probably don't want me to touch you."
"Oh for God's sakes Harry," Ron said, "stop this already, I don't hate you, I'm not disgusted by you, and no it doesn't bother me that you fancy me and it is perfectly okay for you to touch me." Harry eyes him.
He motioned towards Ron's ankle, and despite the fact that Ron had already told him he could Harry still had to ask "can I?" Ron just silently nodded. Harry gently took Ron's ankle, examining it for a moment before casting a quick spell. Relief flooded through Ron as the pain quickly dissipated.
"Better?" Harry asked, setting his ankle down.
"Much," Ron replied, smiling. Harry gave him a small smile.
"Where'd you learn to do that?" Ron said.
Harry shrugged, "taught it to myself mostly. Hagrid would let me practice any time one of his animals got hurt, but I'd never done it on a human before, I wasn't even sure it was going to work, you were kind of a guinea pig, sorry," Harry said quickly.
"Is that what you've been doing every time you've disappeared these past few weeks?" Ron asked. Harry nodded.
"Yeah." The two boys sat in a calm silence, neither quite sure what to do or say next but for some reason both were content in the other's presence.
"You're really not disgusted?" Harry asked quietly. Ron leaned forward, taking a hold of Harry's hand in his, intertwining their fingers just as he had during the game only this time it was his choice.
"Harry, I could never be disgusted by you," Ron said. Harry looked down at their intertwined fingers for a moment, before looking back up.
"Really." Harry looked back down at their hands.
"You're holding my hand," he noted.
"Yes I am," Ron said.
"Is it okay?" Harry asked.
"Very," Ron replied, "is it okay with you?" Harry nodded. Ron gave Harry's hand a gentle squeeze; Harry smiled.
"Oh come here," Ron said, using their linked hands to pull Harry into his lap and wrap his arms around his permanently way too thin frame. Harry let him, resting his head on Ron's shoulder he sighed contentedly.
"What is this?" Harry asked.
"Whatever you want it to be," Ron replied.
"Is it just friends?" Harry asked.
"If you like."
"Can it be more than friends?"
"If you like."
"Do you want it to be more than friends?"
"I would love for it to be more than friends," Ron replied. Harry smiled.
"Good, because so would I."
"Besides, it would suck if we started hating each other, imagine auror training?" Ron joked. Harry's smile fell. Ron noticed.
"Harry? What is it?" Ron asked.
"Um, about that," Harry began.
"Yeah, I'm um, not going."
"Yeah, I told the minister no, I'm just so tired of fighting."
Ron was silent for a moment.
"You're not mad, right?" Harry asked. Ron smiled, giving Harry a tight squeeze.
"Of course not," Ron said, "but what are you going to do?"
"Hermione's been helping me apply to college," Harry said, "I want to be a healer."
"So that's why you've been practicing healing spells." Harry nodded.
"Well, you're going to be the best healer that ever was," Ron said determinedly.
"You think so?" Harry asked.
"I know so," Ron replied, giving Harry a kiss on the cheek. Harry smirked.
"You missed," Harry replied, and kissed Ron on the lips.
AN: Yeah, I know the whole truth or dare game with veritaserum is so totally cliched, but frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. And their game is totally modeled off me and my friends playing truth or dare, because someone always ends up holding someone else's hand, someone always ends up asking everyone who they like, and someone always complains about the truths and dares everyone's giving and insists on giving their own despite the fact that it's not their turn. And we're all (mostly) over eighteen! Kids game? Bah humbug! Gossip generator? Bingo!