Fic: The Smallest Shift (PG-13)
Rating: PG-13 for language
Challenge: (Both of them as Aurors) A dangerous mission leads to a very close miss for one of the boys. The other is so relieved they're both safe he kisses his mate without thinking about it.
Summary: When Ron acts on instinct, he thinks he's ruined the most important thing in his life.
Warnings: Intestines, as it gets a bit visceral – literally. Ron swears quite a lot.
Notes: Thank you to shocolate for taking a look at this for me, and for providing supportive squee throughout.
Fucking Robards and his fucking ideas.
Me and Harry have been fighting the Dark Arts since we were eleven. We're a team – we're good at what we do, and everybody knows it – so why split us up?
Well, it's not just us that's been split up, it's most of the junior and senior Aurors in the department, and it's not for good, but fucking Robards had the fucking idea that the trainee Aurors would benefit from being teamed up with qualified Aurors for three months.
Which is fair enough – the ickle trainees have to learn from somebody, after all – but me and Harry have been on the job together since I joined up. I was his ickle trainee from day one, and we know each other so well that we seamlessly duel as a team in a fight, instinctively know when the other needs offensive or defensive back up. It's the kind of partnership that only comes after years of friendship – it can't be taught, it just is.
We were all assigned a trainee two weeks ago, and mine is alright. Matilda is fresh out of Hogwarts and hasn't lost her enthusiasm yet – and she's good at the job, bright, observant, with a solid gut instinct.
Harry's trainee, however, is a complete knob. Birtwistle is older than Harry for a start, and has a chip on his shoulder about being told what to do by a twenty-two year old. He's not Auror material, has no feel or love for the job, and misses the bleeding obvious. A perp could be standing in front of him, completely naked and flapping his arms up and down, screeching 'Me, me, it was me!', and Birtwistle would look right through him.
And it's Birtwistle's fault that I have an unconscious Harry in my arms, his insides all but spilling out of his stomach, his fault that Harry's blood is soaking into my robes, and I am going to kill the stupid twat when I know that Harry's safe.
I Apparate into the Emergency Treatment area of St Mungo's Magical Injuries department, and I'm greeted by a team of Mediwizards who take Harry from my arms and rush him into a treatment room.
They won't let me follow, despite all my protests, and it's killing me not to be there with him, but I stumble into the waiting area and find my mum and dad waiting for me. Of course they're here – Harry is on Mum's clock, and his hand would have swung from 'Work' to 'Mortal Peril' to 'Hospital'.
Mum opens her arms and it's the easiest thing in the world to sit on the chair next to hers and duck my head to her shoulder, and if she feels me shaking, she doesn't let on.
Dad pats me on the back and I pull back from Mum, but keep hold of her hand. She frowns at my robes, Harry's blood a dark red splash against the beige material, and she cleans them with a twist of her wand.
'What happened, sweetheart?' she asks, dabbing at my blood-stained face with a damp handkerchief. Her hand is quivering, and I know she's as frightened for Harry as I am.
'Harry's trainee mucked up,' I tell her. 'He tripped an old security curse, and it nearly cut Harry in half.'
I close my eyes and I'm back there again, hearing the shriek of a triggered curse, seeing Harry push Birtwistle down and cast a shield at the same time, fast enough to protect the rest of us, but not fast enough to stop the yellow beam of light slicing into his abdomen and left forearm. The shield offered him a little protection, because otherwise he would have been cut completely in half, but it opened up his stomach and almost amputated his lower arm.
He blinked at me as the curse deactivated and he shuddered hard, blood spilling out of his mouth, before his eyes rolled back and he hit the floor.
I was at his side a second later, on my knees and scrabbling to undo his robes, swearing at the sheer amount of blood pumping out of his body. I pushed material aside, and when I saw the shiny pink intestine poking out of the slash across his stomach, I retched, but managed not to vomit.
Fuck knows how, but I remembered my training, and cast a stasis spell on Harry to stop any further blood loss, before wrapping his abdomen in a protective charm and splinting his arm.
Dad touches my arm, bringing me back to now, and shit, I'm gonna be sick, but he knows, and a conjured bowl is shoved under my chin as I puke up what feels like everything I've eaten for the past year.
He strokes the hair back off of my face and I feel about four years-old again as he hands me a tissue to wipe my mouth with. 'Easy there, Ron,' he soothes. 'You did what you could for him.'
I can't talk anymore, I just can't, so we sit and we wait, and as the minutes turn into hours, we're joined by Kingsley, then Hermione, then Ginny, and then the waiting room is full of redheads and we can barely move without elbowing somebody, but it makes me feel better.
Hermione twists our fingers together and leans against my shoulder, and she's still my girl, even though we broke up after a year of awkward kissing and shagging. Me, Hermione and Harry, we still need each other, even after all these years.
'Is there a Ronald Weasley here?' A voice cuts through the noise of twenty assorted Weasleys and family friends, and my heart seems to drop into my stomach.
'I'm him,' I say, my voice cracking as I look up at the Healer and see blood stained medical robes. 'I mean, I'm Ron Weasley.'
The Healer takes a look at the expectant faces clustered around me, and gestures down the hall. 'If we could talk in private …'
Hermione squeezes my hand hard enough to hurt, and I shake my head. 'No. We're all Harry's family, they should hear too.'
'He's alive,' the Healer says simply, then waits for the whoops of relief to die down. 'It took us quite some time to stabilise him enough for us to start performing the healing spells, and his heart stopped twice. We've repaired the evisceration, and there should be few problems resulting from that, but his arm was badly damaged and he nearly lost it. We did manage to re-establish the blood supply though, and we've seen a good response to our motor and sensory tests, but he'll need to do some hand exercises for a few months.'
'Is he awake?' I ask. 'Can I see him?'
He nods, making a note on the chart in his hand. 'Yes, but just for a few minutes, and only two of you. It's important that he gets the chance to rest. Everybody else will be free to visit from tomorrow.'
Hermione comes with me – I mean, who else would I take with me? – and when I stop at the doorway to Harry's room, she gives my hand a gentle tug and pulls me to sit in a chair at his side.
I don't know whether he's unconscious or just asleep, but his eyes are closed, and his skin is so pale it has a blue tinge to it. He's stripped to the waist, and a massive bandage is wrapped around his middle. His injured arm is strapped to his chest, and his fingers are twitching, scrabbling against his collar bone.
'His fingers …' I say, and the Healer flicks his wand over Harry's hand and studies the readout that forms.
'Just the nerves reconnecting,' he tells me, his voice quiet and soothing. 'It's a good thing, and it'll soon settle down.' He places the first two fingers of his hand on Harry's throat, and his lips move silently. 'Nice steady pulse. He should be waking up soon.'
As the Healer leaves the room, Harry's eyelids flutter and he moans. Hermione takes his free hand, and leans forward so he can see her face without his glasses on.
'Hi, Harry,' she whispers. 'You're in hospital, but you're doing fine.'
We've had too much bloody practise at this – we know exactly what to say to our best mate when he wakes up in hospital. I can't really talk – I've put Harry and Hermione through the same thing just as many times – but if I had the choice, I'd always be the one waking up in a hospital bed. It's less sodding painful, for a start.
But when Harry gets hurt, it's usually never this bad. A bump on the head, a broken arm – he's never actually technically died before, well, not since Voldemort and the forest, anyway …
'Ron?' he croaks, turning his head to look for me. 'Everyone ok?'
'Except you, you stupid berk,' I say, and I put my hand on his shoulder. 'Shit, Harry, I had to hold your stomach together. '
'Sorry,' he murmurs. 'But you're alright.' He pulls his hand out from underneath Hermione's fingers, and rests it on top of mine, at his shoulder. 'You're alright,' he repeats, and his eyes are intense and he's biting his lip, and I'm so relieved that he's here and alive and not wrapped up in a shroud that I just lean forward and I do it.
By it, I mean kiss him.
Shit, I've just kissed my best mate, in front of my other best mate, and yeah, I know, been there, done that, but when me and Hermione kissed, it was us kissing each other, not just me pouncing and kissing her without her knowing I was going to.
His lips are chapped, and he just lies there in his bed and lets me kiss him.
I pull back slowly, and he's staring at me, wide eyed, and I'm sure Hermione has the same expression on her face, but I can't stop looking at Harry as he presses his fingers to his mouth.
I'm on my feet a second later, my chair tipping and hitting the floor with a clatter. 'I – I've got to go,' I manage to stutter, and I'm out of the room, ignoring Hermione as she calls after me.
My family are still in the waiting area, and I tell them that Harry is awake and talking and that they should go home, and pretty much run to the Visitor's Apparition point before they start talking again.
I can't talk to them. I can't talk to anybody.
I just fucked up the most important thing in my life.
It's been a week since Harry's accident, and I haven't seen anybody in all that time. After leaving the hospital, I sent Robards an Owl to say I was too stressed to go to work, grabbed some stuff from home, and booked a room at The Leaky Cauldron to hide out in.
I don't know what Harry and Hermione told my family, and I don't want to know. Hermione has been sending Owls every day without fail, and I've refused delivery of them all. Well, except for the first; even then, I only read enough to know that Harry was safe and home, and then I turned it into a pile of ash.
When I'm here on my own, I can pretend that everything is ok, and that I didn't make the biggest mistake of my life.
I've spent my days listening to the wireless, and staring out of the window like some stupid woman in a soppy book. I'd tried reading the newspapers, but they were full of Harry and his recovery, and the front page picture of him leaving the hospital, hunched over and shuffling to a Ministry car, was too much.
And shit, the maid is at the door, and I really don't want her to come in and disturb me, but the room hasn't been cleaned for a few days and it's starting to show, so I wearily trudge to the door and open it.
And unless the Leaky routinely Polyjuices its cleaning staff in to black-haired, green-eyed Aurors, then it's not a maid standing in the doorway, it's Harry bloody Potter, and of course he was able to track me down. It's not like there's many magic-friendly places a Wizard can hide out in, and he knows I'm crap enough with Muggle stuff that I wouldn't attempt to hide out in the Muggle world.
'Done sulking?' he asks, raising an eyebrow. 'Because we need to talk.' He pushes past me into the room, cradling his left arm protectively with his right hand.
He sits on the end of my bed and looks at me expectantly. 'You kissed me,' he says bluntly, and I flinch back from him.
'Didn't mean to,' I mumble, and frown at him when he sniggers. 'What?'
He shakes his head, a grin sneaking onto his face. 'Then you, what, tripped and your lips broke their fall using my face?'
I almost smirk back at him, and I can feel hysteria building in my chest, but I push it down and keep calm. 'I'm an idiot.'
'Yes you are.' He pats the bed beside him, and I automatically sit down, wincing as the mattress sags in the middle and we dip towards each other, our thighs meeting. 'Did you even wonder if I might have enjoyed it?' he says, and he reaches out and puts his hand on my knee.
He's biting his bottom lip again, just like in the hospital, and it's really hard not to reach out and run my thumb across his mouth. 'But … well, it's me. You're you.'
'Exactly!' he almost shouts, startling himself. 'It's you. It's always been you, whatever I do. So you have to kiss me again, now I'm not drugged up on potions, so I can see if I like it or not.' He looks nervous but determined, and angles his body towards mine. 'Go on then.'
I look at his fluttering eyelashes and his pursed lips and think that he looks like a fish, and I start to laugh.
'What?' he demands as I giggle helplessly to myself, wrapping my arms around my stomach and leaning over to try and ease the ache of laughter. 'Oi, you git, stop laughing at me!'
I look up to answer him and his nose is a centimetre from mine, and he tilts his head to the left and then he kisses me.
His mouth is soft and smooth this time, and it lightly closes on my lower lip before he leans back. 'I think I like it,' he says, before moving in again and targeting my top lip this time.
Harry kisses like he lives, hard and passionately and without fear, and his tongue is soon flicking against my lip and I open my mouth and let it in, meeting his tongue with mine, and Merlin, it's bloody amazing. He nibbles and he licks and he sucks and it's brilliant.
His hand comes up to cradle my cheek, his fingers curling into my hair, and his lips move to mouth at the line of my jaw. 'God, Ron,' he moans, almost directly into my ear. 'God.'
I need his lips on mine again, so I turn my head and seek his mouth out, and I could do this forever, just sit here kissing him, because it's perfect.
The room is spinning, so I press my hands to his shoulders and push him gently back onto the mattress, and the groan he lets out against my mouth isn't one of the good ones.
'Shit,' he gasps, clutching at his stomach, and I jump away from him like I've just been burnt.
He pushes himself awkwardly back into an upright position, his upper body shaking as he straightens up, and he grimaces at me. 'Sorry. I should have warned you.'
'I thought you'd healed? They let you out of hospital days ago.'
'Yeah, but my stomach muscles need to build back up again. I'm just sore, that's all. The Healer said I'll be back to normal in a couple of weeks or so.' He bum-shuffles across the mattress until he's pressed up against me, and he wraps his arms around my waist.
I automatically cuddle him back, and his head fits perfectly underneath my chin. It feels nice, comfortable, and his hair is soft and wild and smells of pine trees.
'Do you want to, um, you know? Go out with me?' Harry asks, and his voice is nervous. 'I mean, I'm a bloke and everything, so …'
I cut him off. 'You're a bloke?' I exclaim, and feel him chuckle against my chest. 'I had noticed. But yeah, I want to go out with you, if you want to go out with me?'
'Yeah,' he says. 'Yeah, I do.'
We sit quietly for a minute, and then he pulls his head away from my shoulder. 'Why did you kiss me? What made you do it then, and not some other time?'
I think back to that day a week ago, and I honestly don't know what made me do it. I'd never thought about Harry like that before, not in any serious way, anyway. I've looked twice at a couple of blokes in the past, enough to realise that if the right one came along, I wouldn't say no, but I still like women. Hermione'd call me bisexual, Bill'd call me greedy, and George'd call me a pervert, but I'd call me … open-minded.
'I don't know,' I say. 'You just looked at me, and you bit your lip, and … yeah.'
That earns me another kiss, and this one is soft and affectionate. 'It took me a couple of days to get my head around it,' he confesses. 'But it seems sort of inevitable. It's always been me and you, really.'
He stands up and takes my hand, hauling me to my feet, his fingers still wrapped around mine even when I'm standing. 'Come on. You need to check out, and we can go home and snog. And maybe a few other things.'
I widen my eyes at that, and he snorts at me as he casts a packing charm on my stuff. ' "Things"?' I echo. 'What kind of things, and how do you know about them?'
He Disillusions my trunk and charms it to follow us, and leads me from the room. 'All sorts of things,' he says airily. 'When I told Hermione I thought I could fancy you, she bought me …'
'A book,' we both chorus, and this is why snogging Harry seems like the most natural thing to do in the world. We know each other so well it's ridiculous, we live together, we spend most of our working day and our free time together … the only time we're apart is at night. It's the smallest shift to go from best friends to, well, boyfriends.
'Hermione didn't make notes, did she?' I ask him as we head downstairs.
'Notes? Yeah, she made notes. And she stuck little sticky tab things on all the pages she thought would be useful, and gave me a list of more books we might like to read.' He laughs, and I realise it's my favourite sound in the world. 'You do realise she's probably got all kinds of spreadsheets and projections about who will do what to who, and when?'
'Colour-coded and everything,' I agree glumly, before laughing with him.
When we walk into the bar, Harry drops my hand but stays close as I sign out of my room. I like having him at my side – I always have, and it feels wrong when he's not there, like I've Apparated and splinched something.
'So. Home?' I say, as we step out into Muggle London and automatically turn in the direction of our flat.
'Home,' Harry nods. 'We've got a book to work our way through.'