Author: Brumeux (brumeux77, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: PG-13 for language and intense emotional content
Challenge: One of them gets a new friend and the other is so jealous he can’t see straight.
Summary: Harry has a great job, great friends, and finally a normal life. But depression can lead you to the wrong conclusions.
Warnings: Extreme angst. Especially for me who never writes angst. However, since it is me, angst cannot win in the end. Additionally, although there is a strong suggestion of a Ron/OMC pairing, no such relationship actually exists.
Notes: Many, many thanks to thrihyrne, koshweasley, and wolfiekins who gave not only comments and encouragement but crucial emotional support while I wrestled with the angstiest bits. And special thanks also to shocolate, who gave it a final look over for general ghastliness and horrifying Americanisms.
I wiped my streaming face. “Thank goodness. That’s the last of those blinking boxes.” We’d been moving all Ron’s things from the Burrow to our new flat. His hand-me-downs and his outgrown clothes and his much-maligned maroon jumpers (because each piece held a memory) as well as the good things he’d bought for himself once the Cannons started paying his salary. His Quidditch posters, faded and frayed as they were. His enormous collection of The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle comic books, complete from the first issue until he grew old enough to find other things to do with his pocket money. And if it occurred to me rather late in the process that we could have used a little more magic than just the Floo network to transfer everything, I think Ron got a lot of satisfaction doing it by muscle.
My own belongings had been rather easier to manage. My old Hogwarts trunk contained everything I could possibly want from my past. And once I’d binned things like Uncle Vernon’s old socks there was room for most of the clothes I’d bought since leaving school. My new room looked a bit bare—especially after Ron had insisted I take the larger of the two bedrooms. And Hermione had put in her two Knuts’ worth to support him. In addition they’d bought me a very large bed as a flat-warming gift. “To help fill the room a bit.” They didn’t fool me. At least I’m fairly sure that the purpose of all this was to make our new home as completely different as possible from my cupboard. That it might push me a little in the direction of agoraphobia didn’t seem to occur to them. Still, I appreciated their concern and their efforts; and really, having a home of my own—well, of our own: me and the best mate anyone could ever have—was so brilliant that it would have outshone a lot more discomfort than that.
We did pretty well. Ron was a great cook. Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t let any of her children grow up without being competent in the kitchen. And of course Aunt Petunia had used me as a sort of house-elf, so I could manage all right myself. Still, between his Quidditch practice and my Auror training there was a lot more take-away curry or fish and chips than was likely good for us. Filling if not nourishing. And Sunday lunches at the Burrow of course.
Naturally I wasn’t keeping count, but it seemed to me that after maybe six months Ron was coming home late more often. He’d always had the occasional night having a pint or two with his Quidditch team-mates; but I’d go out with my Auror chums too. And then we’d catch each other up on the gossip—who was shagging whom, and who was going to get into trouble if he didn’t stop slacking off, and who was handing out each rumour, and who—well, all the inconsequential drivel that fills up discussions at a pub when everyone is just slightly tipsy.
I definitely noticed that as Ron’s nights out increased, so did his mentions of one Keith Mitchell. A “top-notch Beater”. A “dead funny bloke”. And good-looking enough that he could no doubt “pull any bird he liked”. Keith had the best anecdotes about the team; the management; the press; even the fans. I was just waiting to hear he had the inside track on goings-on at the Ministry before I exploded. There’s only so much… what… spectacularity? Only so much one person can hold.
I’d always gone to all of the Cannons matches of course, ever since Ron made the team. And truth be told, the Cannons being the Cannons, there weren’t any top-notch players in any position. Not that I’d noticed anyway. I thought Ron came closest. After all, even if another team had made an offer, he never would have considered playing for anyone else. Naturally, as he was my best mate I might—just possibly—have been prejudiced. Only a tiny bit, mind you.
Now, though, I made a point of watching Beaters. Pretty much competent, I thought. Even the Cannons could run to competent. Usually. But I didn’t see any work that could be called “top-notch”. And I definitely wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the great Mitchell from the other never-mentioned Beater if I hadn’t my Omnioculars handy to read the names on the Quidditch robes.
Once in a while I started catching myself resenting Ron’s outings. After all, I was supposed to be his best mate. He should be spending his time with me. Of course, every time I heard those words in my head I was appalled. Ron was a person, not my appendage. He needed outside interests, other friends. I knew I could be self-absorbed and unsociable sometimes, and he shouldn’t have to put up with that all the time. So I resolutely squashed these signs of selfishness. I knew it was selfish and despicable. But it still needed regular squashing.
And still I heard more and more about Mitchell the Wonderful. And squashing was not only needed a lot more often, but was a lot harder to do.
Then one day as the off-season for Quidditch approached, Ron told me he and Keith had decided to take a fortnight’s holiday walking in Wales. Squashing stopped working entirely. And an ugly word sneaked up on my awareness: jealousy. It wasn’t just that I wanted Ron to spend more time with me and less with Mitchell. I wanted Mitchell to vanish from the face of the earth. I wanted Ron to forget he ever existed. I wanted Ron.
I wanted Ron.
I wanted Ron?
What did I mean by that?
Squashing went out of my consciousness.
I was scared.
Mitchell and Ron came back from their holiday. Since the team wasn’t meeting every day, the team nights out were much less common. But Mitchell was a fixture in Ron’s recaps. And every once in a while they’d go out, just the two of them.
And I wanted Ron.
I couldn’t want Ron. Blokes who wanted blokes were different. Fine, but different. And I was finally shot of The Boy Who Lived, and of The Chosen One, and of The Saviour of the Wizarding World. I had finally made it to “normal”. Different was not on my agenda at all. Different was to be avoided. Different was…
I was scared.
Please, God, don’t let me be different. Don’t make me be different. I hadn’t given God a single thought since the Dursleys had stopped dragging me to church at Christmas, and rather suspected there was no such thing. But I found the words coming on their own. I couldn’t want Ron. Positively not. All my squashing abilities were concentrated on that thought now.
He wouldn’t want you anyway. Where had that come from? He wouldn’t want you, and if he knew what you were he’d move out.
I was scared.
I couldn’t stand it any more. Squashing was a total failure. Futile. I finally admitted I wanted Ron. And I wanted Mitchell gone. I wanted him stepped on by a giant. Eaten by a manticore. Reduced to a pile of ashes by one of Charlie’s dragons. Stung repeatedly by a Blast-Ended Skrewt. I was so jealous I couldn’t see straight. But I still heard that little voice: He wouldn’t want you anyway.
I was still scared, but it wasn’t of what I was. I was bent. Okay. Move on. I was scared of losing Ron forever. Losing any little piece of “us”. Losing all of “us”.
The Quidditch season resumed. Ron’s team nights out resumed with them.
I was miserable. I couldn’t concentrate. I was put on warning twice at the Auror Department and finally took a leave of absence. I stopped going out, even to the Cannons matches. I lost my appetite and my weight began dropping. I didn’t listen to the wireless. I stopped watching our Muggle telly. When I wasn’t in my room staring at the ceiling—which was most of the time—I’d sit on the couch holding myself and rocking back and forth. The only reason I went to the Burrow on Sundays was to keep Mrs. Weasley from coming to our flat to find out what was wrong. And when I did go, she’d give me such worried looks. And more hugs, and longer ones. She kept trying to get me to eat more. Treacle tart showed up almost every week. So even though I did my best to smile and act normally, I was clearly not doing a good enough job.
It was the only thing I made any effort on at that point.
It was one of those days. The days when I didn’t lie on my bed staring at the ceiling. I lay on the bed and cried. Not sobs—just a steady flow of tears running down into my ears. My life was in total shambles. Nothing could improve it. I might as well be dead, but I still was not enough of a coward to try to get there.
Suddenly: footsteps in the hall. The Floo signal hadn’t sounded, so it had to be Ron. But that was impossible. It was the middle of the day. Ron would be with his team. How…?
The footsteps came to a stop outside my door. Panicking, I rubbed at the wet tracks on my face.
Ron didn’t even knock. Just opened the door and walked in. If I looked at him I was going to start crying again and I didn’t want to have to explain that. So I rolled over on my side away from him. A clear invitation, I would have thought, for him to leave. He ignored my signal and sat down on the bed.
Two could play at ignoring. I said nothing.
“Harry. Look at me.”
No response from me.
“Harry. You have two choices. You can turn over and look at me and talk to me, or you can lie there listening to me talk until you have to get up for the loo. And you’ll have to look at me then because I’ll be in your way.”
“Righty-o. You choose Plan B.
“Something’s wrong. Something’s been wrong for weeks. Maybe longer. You left your job—your job that you love—and I had to hear it from Hermione. She said you hadn’t given a reason. A couple of times I was on the point of asking you what happened. But you hadn’t said a word, so I sort of figured you didn’t want to talk about it and I wasn’t going to press you.
“You stopped coming to my matches. Sure, I was disappointed. But people have lives; people are allowed to change interests. You were entitled, so I didn’t press you.
“You stopped eating. Almost no food disappeared from the cupboards and there were never any take-away containers in the bin. I talked to Mum and she was worried too. Even there you pushed more food around the plate than you actually ate. And she could tell you were losing weight.
“You stopped being visible when I got home.
“Listen, mate. Something’s wrong, something’s seriously wrong, and I can’t stand it any more. I told the manager I was sick and came home. You’ve got to tell me, and I’m not leaving this room until you do.”
Still no response from me.
“Okay. I lied. There is no Plan B. You’re turning over and looking at me.” He grabbed me before I could brace myself, and I was suddenly on my back. With a face absolutely soaked in tears.
“Harry! Mate!” His face was horrified. He pulled me up into a tight hug, my face against his shoulder. He started a gentle rocking motion. “Harry. It doesn’t matter. We’ll fix it. Whatever it is, we’ll fix it. I’ll quit the team if I have to to work with you. Whatever it is. Anything.”
I broke. I said, “But you love Quidditch.” I half expected that he’d not be able to understand me, not with my voice being choked up so, and muffled by his shirt.
“Fuck Quidditch,” he said. “Don’t you know you’re more important than Quidditch?”
No, I didn’t. And I didn’t believe it. Rotten, worthless, useless me? Me, ready to destroy our friendship if I spoke?
But I spoke. It just came out. My squashing mechanism failed me when I needed it most. “What about Keith?”
Yes. I’d just screwed myself. I could feel him tense up.
But what he said was, “What about Keith? Fuck Keith too.” He pushed me away so he could stare at me. “Harry. Does Keith have anything to do with this?”
A sob escaped, and I buried my face in his shoulder again. I couldn’t let him look at me.
“Keith?” His voice was incredulous. “Harry. Harry, talk to me. Who gives a flying fuck about Keith? Bugger Keith.” He pulled me away again and grabbed my chin with one hand so I couldn’t escape his eyes. So I closed mine. I could feel more tears being squeezed out and running down my cheeks. I was past caring.
“You like Keith,” I croaked.
“He’s all right, I guess.”
“But you were always with him.”
“I was trying to give you time. Time to have a life. Once a month out with the Aurors is not a life. I was taking up all your time. You didn’t have a chance to do anything.”
“But you were always talking about him.” With a little practice my voice was getting a bit clearer.
“You would have wondered if I said I was with some guy who was dead boring. And of course he wasn’t dead boring. I could stand hanging around with him.”
“But your holiday…”
“Yeah. You. Having a life. Remember? And I knew he’d go along. I suspected he had a bit of a crush on me. Turned out I was right. He tried to get into my bed and I had to be rather firm about not being interested.”
Another sob escaped. I’d been right. Or the little voice had been right. He wouldn’t want you anyway. I was queer, he wasn’t. He’d be “rather firm” with me and then he’d move out and avoid me and there would never be anyone who would be such a friend, let alone someone I loved so much. Needed so much.
He’d find out eventually. I hadn’t been able to hide from myself. I’d fuck it up in the end. Especially with someone who knew me so well. I had to say it once before I lost him.
“I love you.”
“Yeah, I know. I love you too, mate.”
I could feel my face about to crumple up again. “No, Ron: I love you. I’m a sorry-arsed poof and I love you. And you’ll leave but please don’t hate me.” And I hid my face on his soggy shoulder again.
“Leave?” Even drowning in my own misery I could hear the shock. “Leave you? Harry, Harry, how could you think that? Don’t you know—” There was a quaver in his voice. “—Don’t you know you’re the most important thing in my life? Don’t you—” He paused and I could hear him swallow. He started stroking the back of my head. “Since we were eleven. Since you were the most famous person in the world but still liked being with me, would rather spend time with me than with Malfoy. Since you shared your Chocolate Frogs with me. Every day you made me believe that Ron Weasley was a wonderful thing to be. That being Ron Weasley was the best thing a human person could ever do. The only days in eight years that you haven’t said as clear as day, ‘Ron Weasley, I love you,’ would be the days when I was such a jerk—such a god-awful git—that I’d cut you off or abandoned you and made impossible for you. Oh, Harry. My Harry. You couldn’t get me to leave you if you tried with both hands. And hate you?” He sniffled. He kissed the top of my head. He clutched me even closer.
Knots within me didn’t even unknot. They were pulverised; they exploded; they were annihilated as by a Reducto spell. If I started crying again, it was relieved, and healing. And it was to keep Ron company, because I was pretty sure he was crying too.
Finally I gave a cough and I was done. I looked up at Ron. His eyes were shining and he had on the best of his many superb smiles.
“You had me so worried. I thought it was going to be hard to help you with your problem. Instead…”
He flicked his wand and all our clothes except our pants were piled neatly on a chair. He roughly yanked the bedclothes out from under me and pushed me under them.
“Budge over, mate. You’ve spent all this time in here but I’ll bet you haven’t been sleeping much. That’s the first thing we’ll fix.”
He slid in next to me.
“I’m glad we made you get this big bed,” he said with a grin. Then, ignoring what he’d just said, he pulled me close and rested my head on his chest.
“My Harry. I love you so much.”
Nothing so concrete as a thought. Not even a feeling. Just a deep sense of contentment that I was home.
The beating of his heart—his big, generous heart—was the last thing I heard.