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[personal profile] compos_dementis
Title: Halfway There
Author: compos_dementis
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Ron
Rated: Adult for mild cursing and sex
Warnings: male/male sex, language, major character death, age difference
Disclaimer: Not for profit, just for fun. All characters belong solely to J.K. Rowling and her wild imagination.
Summary: It had been seven years since Ron’s death when something unexpected happened.


It had been four years since it happened. Harry, now the age of twenty-one, was still trying hard to both remember and forget. Forgetting the incident would be an insult to Ron’s memory, but remembering the loss was so painful, both emotionally and physically. It hurt to be parted from his best friend, his first friend, the one thing he’d miss the most.

He kept a remembrance shoebox in his room at the top of his closet. It had been Ron’s old shoebox at one time, when he was fifteen and in dire need of shoes. It was now filled with items like Ron’s Keeper gloves and prefect badge. At the bottom, folded neatly, was a bright orange tank top with the words “Chudley Cannons” stitched into it. Harry had hoped that it would keep Ron’s scent of dirt and chocolate, but now all that Harry could smell on it was himself. He hated it.

And then there was the letter perched on top, a long note written in Ron’s looped handwriting that had been found beneath that tiny bed only a few summers ago. It had never been sent.

Harry would read it every now and again, when he felt like mashing the bruise, memorize his favorite parts, imagine Ron sitting in the dark of his room with his face close to the parchment, scribbling away.

“Dear Harry,

“I doubt with every cell in my body that you’ll ever get this letter. You know what a coward I am sometimes, and if you don’t, Hermione can surely tell you.

“There are three thing you should know by now, even if I hadn’t plucked up the courage to tell you. I always knew the Hat should’ve put me in Hufflepuff or something; I’m not nearly brave enough to be a Gryffindor.

“Okay. Here goes nothing, mate…

“One: I love you. I always have. You should know this before you get this note. I treasure you above everyone else in my life, including my family. If you asked me, I would run off with you without a second thought, just us and the shirts on our backs. You’re my best friend in the entire world, you’re the only brother I chose to have. You’re the one person I would always believe in, always worry over. I love you so much it hurts.

“Two: I need you. I need you like I need air, and not many people seem to understand that. People tell me a lot of the time that I’m living in your shadow, but what else is there, really? At least as your shadow, I can be with you always. I look forward to the time with you, to your laughter, to your temper. I doubt that you need me in the same manner I need you; probably not, because you seemed to manage just fine the times we weren’t together in our fourth year. But to me, a single day without your voice or your touch just isn’t worth the effort. You’re the reason I was put on this Earth.

“Finally, three: I would lay down and die for you. No questions asked, I would give my life for you if required. By the time you read this, I probably already have. I always knew it would end like this, that I would give myself over to let you continue on. Did you realize it? Did you know? If I’m dead now, just promise me that you won’t ever forget how very much I love you. Wherever I am now, I still do.

“Give my love to Hermione, if she didn’t go the way I went. And Ginny, while you’re at it; I never did give her enough.

“Love, Ron”

***

The pregnant silence surrounded him as he lay in bed, staring up at the dark ceiling. Grimmauld Place was much emptier than he remembered it: all the house-elf heads removed, Kreacher dead, that portrait of Mrs. Black finally silenced. Hermione had moved in with him after it happened, probably to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t kill himself with grief. She encouraged him to decorate, to make it friendlier, but he left it alone.

Ever since it happened, Harry had become nearly silent. The only words he spoke anymore were terse, one-word answers to the meaningless questions Hermione asked him when she was lonely. He wandered the house mindlessly, eyes vacant of expression, and the loss he carried chilled him to the core even still. He spent most of the day in bed like this, staring into space, drifting in and out of sleep.

Hermione tried to bury her depression through work, spending double shifts at the Ministry. She insisted on doing all the cooking and all the cleaning, and even helped him get dressed on days he couldn’t do it himself. Harry sometimes sent her looks of sincere pity because she worked so hard all the time, but she said she welcomed the work.

He rolled onto his side and closed his eyes, thinking of how things were in a constant downward spiral and they wouldn’t stop.

He wanted to be home again.

***

Harry sat alone at the kitchen table. The air was empty of emotion, swirling around his head so much it made him sick. It was hard for him to breathe lately, like a hippogriff was sitting on his chest. He twirled his wand in his fingers boredly.

He closed his eyes and stared at the back of his eyelids. As he watched, he could almost see Ron again: red hair, bright and distinguishing… freckles, vivid against pink skin… dark eyes watching him from across a crowded room. And then a voice to match the face, gentle and friendly behind a harsh accent, a sign of his family’s poverty.

“Hey, mate. Open your eyes for a second, would ya?”

Harry opened his eyes in shock and then blinked several times. He must have been going utterly insane, because Ron was sitting across the table from him, the seventeen-year-old that Harry remembered, looking young and healthy as if he’d never been brutally murdered.

“Ron?” Harry tried to whisper, but no sound came from his lips. He was shocked into silence, and stared at Ron in amazement.

Ron grinned at him with very white teeth, and then he frowned, eyeing Harry up and down.

“You’ve gotten old,” he said sadly.

Harry blinked, unwilling to believe it. Ron was dead, he’d seen the murder with his own eyes, he’d held Ron’s lifeless body in his arms.

“You’ve been away a long time.”

“Away?” Ron laughed, and it sounded exactly as it did in their school years. “You make it sound as if I was on holiday.”

“You’re—“ Harry paused. “You’re dead.”

“Erm, yeah.”

“But you can’t be,” protested Harry, beginning to panic. “You’re sitting in my kitchen, alive and healthy!”

Ron sighed. “’M in your kitchen, yeah. Like what you’ve done with the place, too,” he added, looking around. “Very… clean.”

Harry blinked back a flow of tears. “Hermione did it,” he said.

“Ah, Hermione’s still here then? Good to hear she’s still kicking. So, how long?”

“What?”

“How long has it been?” Ron asked, tone suddenly sad.

Harry had to think about it. “Seven years.”

Ron smiled slightly. “So you’re a big man of twenty-four, then? I wonder if I’m still taller than you. Wow. Seven years.”

“Yes,” Harry said. “Why are you here? Not that I want you leave or anything.”

“What, a good friend can’t just pop in, have a chat?”

“Not a dead one, no.”

Ron looked down at the table. “I needed to see you.”

“So, you’re a ghost, then?”

“Do I look invisible to you?” Ron asked irritably. “No, I’m not a ghost. I’m a ‘solid vision’, meaning I can still touch things. Watch.” He reached over and picked up a pear from the big ceramic fruit bowl on the table. He took a huge bite out of one side. “See?”

Harry furrowed his brow. “Why would you need to eat? You’re dead.”

Ron scowled. “You think the dead don’t get hungry every now and then? Biased bastard.”

“Okay, fine. So you’re solid. But how…?”

“Did I get here?” Ron finished. Harry nodded. “Made a deal.”

“With who?”

Ron shrugged. “Dunno. God, I s’pose, if you believe in that sort of thing. Nice chap, too. Has a nice variety of tea.”

Harry felt tears coming again, and swallowed. Ron was right there, in front of him, looking well, and Harry had missed him so much. He reached out a hand to touch the fabric of his shirt, but Ron jumped back before he could, looking surprised.

“What’s the matter?” Harry asked.

Ron shook his head. “You can’t touch me, Harry.”

Harry blinked. “Why not?”

“That’s the deal. I can see you, talk with you, but I can’t be touched.”

“Fine, then at least say hello to Hermione, she—“

“No, not that either.”

“What?”

Ron sighed again. “I came here to see you, not Hermione. If anyone else finds out I’m here – or if you touch me – I have to go back.”

Harry sunk back in his chair, disappointment setting in. “That’s a stupid deal,” he said.

Ron ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah. On a happier note, your dad says hi.”

Harry’s head snapped back up.

“Your dad says hello,” Ron repeated. “Looks like you, y’know. Oh, and I saw your mum, too. She wanted me to tell you that she’s very proud of you and to hang in there.”

“You met my parents?” Harry asked.

“Not just your parents, mate. The entire lot of them. A whole gaggle of dark-haired, knobbly-kneed Potters. And I thought I had a big family!”

“What did my dad say?”

“Wanted to know how I knew you, for starters. I told him that we were best mates in school. Also told him that I gave my life for you.”

There was a sudden noise in the hallway as the front door opened.

“Harry!” Hermione shouted. “I’m home!”

Harry looked to the hallway, and when he looked back, Ron had already gone.

***

“What do you want for dinner?” Hermione asked from behind the Daily Prophet. The headlines weren’t about Harry anymore; there was just nothing interesting to report about him anymore. Now the reporters were all harping on McGonagall and her ability to run a school. Harry didn’t really pay it much thought, having dropped out a year early.

“I dunno,” Harry replied. He was re-reading the letter again, looking for some clue as to why he was suddenly losing his mind.

I love you so much it hurts…

“How does spaghetti sound?”

Several minutes passed in silence, and Harry didn’t answer her question.

He wanted Ron again.

***

The sun beat down through the gap in the branches and hit the back of Harry’s neck. A drop of sweat ran down his neck and into his shirt, making him shiver.

“Hot, innit?”

Harry looked to his left. “Oh, hi, Ron. You startled me.”

Ron was fanning himself frantically with his hand, face slick with sweat. “Y’know, they don’t have heat like this in Wherever I Was. This is just ridiculous. I’m dying here.”

Harry rolled his eyes and snickered, but then his smile faded.

“Haven’t seen you in weeks.”

It had meant to be playful, light, but came out instead as heavy and slightly angry. Ron looked at him incredulously.

“I’ve been busy,” he said coldly. “You could be a little more grateful that I found time off at all to come here and see you.”

“Time off?” Harry laughed. “Yeah, ‘cause you’re *so* busy up there in Heaven, aren’t you? No grieving, no sadness, no suffering… Could hardly find the time to see me, right?”

Ron blinked. “No grieving? Harry, I look forward to seeing you every day. I think about you all the time. You are so much more important to me than some Utopia. You know that.”

“God, Ron!” Harry shouted, his temper flaring. “Why even bother trying to defend yourself? You’re obviously happier up there than you ever were with me. I put you in danger, you and your family; I may as well have given you the Kedavra myself.”

“Why bother?” Ron repeated. “My God, Harry, are you that thick? It’s because I don’t just love you…” He swallowed and all the color drained from his face. “I’m in love with you.”

Harry was speechless. He opened his mouth and then closed it again, unsure of how to react. Ron’s confession hung in the air between them and Ron looked horrified at what he’d said. Harry couldn’t really blame him.

“Ron… I—“

“I think I hear someone coming,” muttered Ron, and disappeared without a sound.

***

Hermione was cooking breakfast the next time Harry spoke. The delicious scent of pancakes drifted through number twelve as Harry sat at the table in his usual silence. He had a book laid open on the table, and his eyes scanned it without really processing the words on the page.

“What are you reading?” Hermione asked, but the question held no curiosity. She was just dying to hear his voice again.

He just shrugged. The book was meaningless. Some muggle fantasy that stretched on too long, about wizards and wise men and dragons and lost prophecies. He’d had his share of all that and wasn’t interested in any more. Hermione sighed at his silence and flipped the pancake tiredly.

“Why do you hate me?” she asked wearily, refusing to make eye contact with him.

He looked down at his lap, picking at a hangnail.

“I don’t hate you,” he replied, and meant it. He was just depressed because he was so confused. Confused at why Ron could love him as much as he did, at why Ron would do such a stupid thing as die, at Harry’s own sexuality towards his friend.

“Yes, you do,” said Hermione, sounding angry and exhausted all at once. “You don’t speak to me anymore.”

He loved Ron; there was no doubt about that. He loved Ron so much it nearly got him killed a lot of the time. But was he in love with Ron? Ron was good-looking, of course, with wonderful traits that couldn’t compare to Harry’s average looks: soft ginger hair, cinnamon freckles, dark brown eyes blinking at him in a silent plea. And then there were those legs, long and thin and bony, attached to equally bony hips, with an almost girlish ‘V’ of a slim waist.

“I just don’t feel like talking,” he said softly, looking up at her.

But love was more than sex. Hell, Ron was sex on legs as far as he was concerned. Ron had so much more to him, though, his best friend, his brother, the one he would follow to the ends of the earth. Ron had risked his life so many times for Harry and had given himself once. Ron was joy, Ron was happiness, Ron was normality, Ron was…

…home.

“You never feel like talking,” Hermione huffed, ad walked away, leaving her breakfast to burn.

***

Weeks passed in which Harry didn’t see Ron again. He had managed two visits from Ron before pissing off both of his dearest friends like the idiot he was. And just when he was about to admit to himself that it was his own fault, he had thoughts like, “Then again, if Ron hadn’t been so stupid…” or “If Hermione could open her mind a little…”

When the empty weeks turned into empty months, Harry began to think he was imagining the entire thing. It would make sense to have visions of Ron in grief, and Ron’s sudden disappearing act was just Harry’s mind telling him to get a grip.

But that was still no excuse for hurting Hermione. He meant it when he said he didn’t hate her, but he just wasn’t up to having deep, meaningful conversations with her lately. He was tired, and he could tell that she was tired too just by looking at her.

She had been suggesting for quite some time that he get a job. She told him that his income would allow them to pay off debts on time, and the work would offer as a distraction from mourning. He’d never listened until now.

***

Harry couldn’t fathom why they had the building cooled when it was freezing outside. He tugged his coat tighter around him – the coat Ron got him for his birthday the month before he died – and stared at the copy of the Quidditch Monthly in his lap. It was an older copy, an edition from three months ago, but he didn’t mind reading the articles again.

Ron would’ve liked this one. The Tornadoes Keeper had been accused of rape and was eventually brought to Justice. There was an article about women playing Quidditch and one on the Chudley Cannons’ sudden winning streak. But Ron was still dead. There was no changing that.

That feeling of depression was setting in again, cold and chilling in the pit of his stomach. He closed his eyes and tried not to remember the hurt, angry tone of Ron’s voice, the unbelieving look in those brown eyes.

It wasn’t real, Harry reminded himself. It was a hallucination.

But it had seemed real. He had felt bad for Ron. He had felt love for him. How could he love someone that wasn’t really there?

“Mr. Potter,” said a woman from the door. He broke his gaze on the magazine and looked up at her.

“Yes,” he answered quietly, blushing.

The woman smiled at him. Her teeth weren’t as white as Ron’s, but perfectly straight, while Ron’s were crooked.

“My name is Amanda Freeman. Let’s take a look at your resume, shall we?”

***

“How did it go?” Hermione asked him as he hung his coat on the hook by the door.

“Terrible,” he replied angrily. “I didn’t get the job.”

Hermione looked upset. “And why the hell not?”

Harry shook his head. “She said… She said that my unemployment was an issue. Basically that the whole wizard population thinks I’m a nutter because of my depression after…” He swallowed. “After Ron died.”

“That’s ridiculous. You are not a nutter.” Hermione frowned. “You’re just… having a hard time adjusting, is all.”

“For eight years?” Harry asked. Then he sighed. “No wonder no one will hire me.”

“Stop,” begged Hermione. “Don’t talk like that. It was a huge loss for everybody, especially for you. Ron was everything to you. And as much as I hate to say it…” She paused. “He was a better friend to you than I was.”

“No!” Harry protested. “You—“

“Harry James Potter,” she said. “You picked Ron over me every time and you know it. It was always, ‘Ron and I will go ahead without you’ or ‘Ron and I will go to the Ministry to fight while you stay with these guys.’ ‘Ron and I’ this and ‘Ron and I’ that. You loved him like he was your own brother, and when he died, your whole world collapsed.”

He closed his eyes, trying not to listen to the truths pouring from Hermione’s lips. He couldn’t really deny what she was telling him; he had liked Ron better, his life did come to an end when Ron’s did. But he didn’t love Ron like a brother. This was something far beyond brotherly affection.

“I just miss him so much,” Harry said truthfully, but he wasn’t saying it to her.

***

After getting turned down at the Ministry, Harry didn’t give up his search for employment. He scanned want ads in the Prophet every day in pursuit of work, most of which turned him down. He thought about all the previous interviews as he sat in the waiting room for yet another one, this time to work for Flourish and Blotts, the book shop in Diagon Alley.

He picked at a string on his shirt hem and sighed. This was hell. Pure hell. He was just going to get turned down again.

“Hey.”

Harry looked next to him and saw Ron sitting in the chair beside him. The room was empty other than them, for which Harry was grateful.

Harry didn’t reply. He stared blankly at the shelf across the room instead.

Ron sighed and scuffed the toes of his shoes on the wooden floor. He was wearing the ratty old sneakers he had been wearing when he died.

“I’m sorry,” Ron said, voice laden with guilt. Harry didn’t look at him.

“It’s my fault,” Harry protested. “I’m the one who was blowing everything out of proportion.”

Ron laughed. “You never let me take the blame, do you?”

“It wasn’t your fault. It never is.”

“It was my fault in fourth year. I wouldn’t believe you. I wasn’t there when—“ He stuttered, laughed, and then started over. “When you needed me most.”

Harry swallowed and shook his head. “No. I was being hardheaded and stubborn then. And I’ve needed you more.”

“What d’you mean?”

“I need you now more then ever,” said Harry. “You were right, I should’ve been more grateful. I’m sorry.”

Ron nodded. “I forgive you.” He looked up at the door. “What are you doing here?”

Harry shrugged. “Trying to get a job.”

“At the book shop? You hate reading.”

“No, that’s you,” Harry corrected teasingly. “And everyone else has turned me down.”

“What?” Ron said angrily. “Why? Nobody in their right mind would tell you no!”

“Because apparently I’m too much in love with you to function still,” Harry muttered.

Ron blinked. “W—Wha--?”

“I’m in love with you,” Harry repeated. “I always have been. I just didn’t realize it until now.”

Ron was still sitting with his mouth open. “You are?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, wow.”

“I know.”

“So…” Ron said, obviously trying to break the tension. “Even at school, when you were flirting with Chang and snogging my baby sister… you…?”

“Had the hots for my male best friend?” Harry finished. “Yes. I think I liked Cho because I could never have her. She was pretty, popular, older, and had the hot boyfriend. I thought I loved her at the time, I really did.”

Ron frowned. “Then why?”

Harry shrugged. “I was young then, Ron. Young and stupid and screwed up, struggling for something real. Cho wasn’t real; she just wanted something permanent after Cedric. She was like cheap plastic.”

“Was Ginny… real?” Ron asked, looking uneasy.

“I thought so at first,” Harry said, thinking. “She seemed perfect. She liked Quidditch, she was clever, she was strong… but then I realized something.”

“What was that?”

Harry bit his bottom lip. “I only wanted Ginny,” he said, “because she was the closest I could get to you.”

Ron looked at the floor.

“You’re real,” Harry said. “You were always… real.”

“Stop,” Ron begged. “Please. Just… I’m—I can’t—I can’t even touch you, and…” He choked on a sob. “God, I want to touch you. I want to…”

Harry blinked, clearing away his tears. “Ron… I didn’t—Stop…” Ron was shaking now, trembling.

“Why didn’t you say anything?!” Ron gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me when I could have you?!”

“I didn’t know—“

“Yes, you did! You knew! How could you not…? I love you…”

“I’m sorry!” Harry said. “I’m so sorry.”

Ron held himself. “I can never have you now.”

And he disappeared as somebody came through the door.

***

“Did you get the job?” Hermione practically shouted, jumping him as he came through the door.

“Nice to see you too, Hermione,” he said tiredly, depressed.

Hermione frowned. “What’s the matter? Didn’t you get the job?”

“That’s not it. I got the job. It’s just… Ron never got the chance to grow up.” Harry blinked sadly. “He was just a kid.”

“…I know.” She looked at her bare toes. “I miss him too. I guess he sort of… held us together, in a sense. He was so much braver than I ever gave him credit for.” She swallowed. “I should’ve let him know how important he was.”

Harry closed his eyes for a moment, trying not to break down again. “I loved him.”

“I know.”

“No,” said Harry. “I mean… I *loved* him… and he never knew it.”

Hermione blinked. “You mean you were—“

“In love with the youngest Weasley boy, yes. He was so wonderful, so special, how could I not?”

“I wanted to love him,” said Hermione sadly. “I think he wanted to love me too, but a relationship was just an excuse to stop fighting. He needed someone… I dunno… a little more accepting. Someone that would take him as he was. And I couldn’t give him that.”

She paused, and he ran to her, held her to him like he couldn’t with Ron. He lifted her face and saw her tears, real and honest and visible for the first time since Ron’s death. She was finally reacting. He kissed her, and her mouth felt odd on his own, and even then it was only their friendship, nothing romantic.

It was just comfort.

***

His job that Monday was just sorting out books into categories, some by title, genre, or author. Magic made everything easier on him.

Working did help with his depression for a time, but he still came home thinking of bright red hair and love. His job didn’t cure loneliness.

He did see Ron during breaks, with short, tense conversation about Quidditch. He wanted nothing more at those moments than to jump Ron’s bones, to touch him, to run a finger over those lips, chapped even in death. The fact that Ron was dead didn’t matter anymore; it was Harry’s lizard brain, pushing him to finally touch that freckled skin.

Hermione was always there for him, just as needy and confused as he was. She needed a warm body, but she never got the courage to ask, and he never offered.

It hurt too much.

***

Harry’s life was going to hell.

He needed someone so badly. Even now, as he lay on the sofa, he felt the itch of loneliness. He wanted a person to touch, to cradle, to bring him over the edge into orgasm. He wanted skin and sweat and moans of ecstasy, arousal and lust, and to finally say that he was happy again.

He hadn’t been happy in eight years.

“Are you okay?”

Harry opened his eyes and looked tiredly up into Ron’s. “Yeah,” he said. “Did you just get here?”

Ron nodded. “I wanted to say hello.”

“Well, hello, then.”

“What’s up with you lately?” said Ron. He sat down at Harry’s feet. “You’re so angry and tense with me. Are you sick or something?”

“No,” replied Harry. “Maybe I’m so tense because you won’t get off my back.”

“Don’t start that with me, Mr. Potter,” said Ron in a perfect McGonagall imitation. Then he frowned. “Seriously. Why—“

“What do you want to hear, Ron? That I’m tense because I haven’t had a decent shag in well over eight years?”

Ron sighed. “So you’re angry because you’re horny?”

“Leave me alone, Ron.” Harry shut his eyes again, willing away his headache. “You don’t understand.”

“You told me you loved me.” Harry opened his eyes once more to look into Ron’s hurt ones. “When did that change?”

Harry sat up on the couch. “I have this… tension. I dunno. I’m just so…”

“Lonely,” Ron finished.

“Yeah.”

They sat in silence, carefully not touching one another, and Harry could feel the electricity between them. Ron was so beautiful in such a Ron way, something that Harry alone could see clearly. But Harry was dying, the pressure to touch crushing him. He couldn’t feel under the weight of it.

Ron blinked, slowly, eyes just as dark as when he was living, as when he was alive and happy. Harry could see the world reflected in them. Harry was so lonely, even with Ron here; he would always be lonely, because that’s who he was. The people he loved always left him. Why should Ron be any different?

And Harry found himself reaching out for Ron like he’d done so many times before, fingertips searching for skin, and Ron didn’t even flinch when Harry touched his fingers. Ron took a deep breath but didn’t protest because he knew, somehow, that this is what Harry needed most right now. What they both needed most.

Harry touched more skin, a freckled shoulder and Ron’s cheek, tracing hidden lines that had never before been touched like this. He leaned forward for better access to Ron’s soft hair and then touched Ron’s lips with his own, chapped and warm. He pushed his tongue inside and Ron closed his eyes, pushing back with full force and then Harry pressed Ron to lay flat on the couch, laying his weight on top of him.

Ron gasped and Harry peeled their shirts over their heads, touching chests. Ron was so thin and flat against him and Harry unbuttoned Ron’s jeans to slip a hand inside. Ron squirmed and moaned quietly, a wonderful noise that Harry wished he had heard before.

This is what Harry needed, and at that moment, he could finally breathe again, taking a huge lungful of sweet air for the first time in years.

Harry kissed him again, a simple motion that he’d never bothered to give in all their years at school. Ron’s face was flushed as he wiggled, and he reached forward to run his fingers over Harry’s erection.

Harry whimpered and rocked into his hand, feeling Ron’s palm tighten around him. “Ron…”

It was an illusion, and he knew it was. But Ron felt real to him, real and warm and alive, and he couldn’t deny the desire that burned deep in his chest. Ron pushed up a little, and Harry tightened his grip, and everything was perfect for that little moment.

Ron shut his eyes again, choking back words of nonsense as he came. Harry followed, tipping into orgasm because it had been so long and he was sick of waiting.

He collapsed onto the couch beside Ron, holding his friend close to him and squeezing his eyes closed. He scrambled for anything to end the numbness, anything to feel again, and when he opened his eyes, Ron had gone.

That feeling of cold washed over him as the traces of Ron’s scent became his own, as Ron’s warmth chilled in his absence.

And he suddenly found it hard to breathe again.

***

“Are you okay?” Hermione asked, watching Harry read the newspaper.

Harry shut his eyes tiredly. “No, not really.”

She sighed. “Me either.”

He opened his eyes slowly. “What’s for dinner?” he asked, the loneliness tugging at him again.

“I don’t know.”

Harry stood up. “Why don’t we go out tonight?” he said, taking her hand in his own.

She smiled. “Yeah, okay.”

“Good,” he said. “I’d like to see the sun again.”

He knew he’d be searching for Ron in every man there, for a flash of red hair or soulful brown eyes or large hands. But he felt things were going to get better, that things would be all right with him again someday. That day hadn’t come yet, but he knew it would arrive soon enough, the day when he’d wake up with a smile on his face.

And as he took Hermione’s hand, he felt he was already halfway there.

-end

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