A/N: If you recognize it, it isn't mine. All belongs to JKR. The line about hanging out with all your friends is borrowed from Dawson's Creek. Only this plot is mine. I want to thank my reviewers, especially Jessamina and circusphoenix for all their support. you guys keep me going. And of course my fabulous beta Nicola (aka alphamatrix) Sorry for the long wait on this chapter. I made it extra long for you, so I hope it was worth the wait.
Harry wasn’t sure at first what had awakened him. He blinked at the dazzling sun coming in his bedroom window, trying to clear his head. Then he heard it again. Someone was calling his name. With a sinking feeling in his stomach he followed to familiar voice out into his living room. Ron.
“What took you so bloody long, mate?” Ron said in an irritated tone, “I’ve had my head in your sodding fireplace for at least 5 minutes, and I’m starving. Fancy some breakfast?”
Although there was nothing appealing about that offer at the moment, Harry seized the opportunity to get Ron out of his flat quickly. The last thing he wanted at that moment was for Ron to find out just who was lying in his bed..
“Sure thing, mate. Let me get dressed and I’ll meet you at Hogsmeade in 20. We haven’t been over in ages.”
“Right then. Hurry up.” Harry heaved a great sight of relief when the familiar pop announced Ron’s departure. Last night in their frenzied passion being with Hermione had seemed simple and right. But now that he had to face Ron, things suddenly seemed much less simple. He was not likely to take this well.
Harry shuffled back into his room thinking that a shower might do some good to clear his head before his meeting with Ron. He stopped short in his doorway, struck dumb at the sight of Hermione lying there sleeping. Her face was partly buried in the pillow as though she were hiding from the sun, and her hair was tumbling over the blankets. Harry’s breath caught in his throat at the way the sun sent rivers of gold through her shining chestnut hair.
“How can people not believe in magic, with people like her in the world?” he wondered to himself.
In that moment, Harry realized something. Ron might well be angry, and he had that right, but she was worth every bit of angst that was sure to come his way. People spend their whole lives hoping for what he now had laying before him. They wrote songs, and poems, and movies that made girls cry, and never scratched the surface of what he was feeling. Ron was his best friend, his brother, but what he felt for Hermione in that moment transcended all of that. Harry hoped he would come around, but one way or another, in that moment he chose Hermione. With that thought,he went to ready himself for the task that lay ahead.
When Harry emerged from the shower, he found his bed empty and neatly made. He smiled to himself and went out to find Hermione before he left. He followed the sound of music now drifting out of his kitchen, and he had to bite back a laugh at what he found. Hermione had turned on the wizarding wireless, and unaware of his presence she was dancing around the kitchen with wild abandon. Harry was positively shaking with laughter as she grabbed a spoon from the drawer and began using it as a microphone for her private concert. As she started towards the refrigerator, shaking her butt in a most unladylike fashion, Harry moved into position behind her. It wasn’t until she spun around in her grand finale that she became aware of her audience. She screamed at the top of her lungs and flung the spoon at his head.
“Dear God, Harry!” she shrieked, clutching at her chest, “you scared the hell out of me.” A blush was now creeping into her cheeks as she contemplated just how long he had been watching her.
“I’m sorry,” Harry gasped still laughing, “I just came to see the show.”
“Oh, very funny. You’re a right comedian, you are.”
“What are you doing anyway, besides turning me on?” he added, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. She rewarded him with a playful smack as she went to retrieve the spoon from where it had fallen.
“If you must know,” she said primly, “I thought I would come fix us some breakfast before I headed to mum’s to pick up Amelia.”
“Actually, love, Ron flooed over this morning and asked me to meet him for breakfast. And no, he didn’t know you were here,” Harry added seeing the concerned look on her face.
“Are you going to tell him then?”
“I don’t have much option do I?,” he murmured softly. She turned away from him biting her lip with hesitation. He moved across the kitchen to stand behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Hey,” he whispered into her ear. “Don’t look so upset. I know this is going to be hard, but we’ll get through it.” Hermione gave a snort, but beyond that gave no reply. “I mean it, Hermione. You and I are going to be together no matter what happens with Ron and me. I love you, silly girl. He might be upset, but he’ll come around. Besides,” he whispered right into her neck, and felt her shiver in response, “we have plenty of other things to feel good about.”
He began kissing his way down her neck, and she gave a pleased little sigh and tilted her head to allow him access. As he began tickling her collarbone with his lips, she suddenly pulled away from him with a gasp. Harry raised his head in confusion, and followed her gaze across the kitchen. There he found himself meeting the horrified stare of Ron Weasley. For a moment no one dared speak, and then Ron shook his head sadly.
“Thanks a lot, mate,” he spat viciously. Then he apparated away without a word.
“What’ll we do now?” Hermione asked shrilly.
“I’ll find him,” Harry said firmly. “I made this mess, and I’ll clean it up.”
“How long d’you suppose he was there?”
“Dunno, but long enough. I just need to talk to him.” Harry kissed her quickly, and then apparated away.
Harry spent a good portion of the day looking for Ron, but he was nowhere to be found. Harry asked at all of his haunts, the twin’s shop, and even at the Burrow. No one had seen Ron all day, but everyone assured him that they would let him know immediately if they heard from him. Around lunch time Harry was beginning to feel pretty hopeless. He had searched all day for his friend, and he feared that longer Ron had to stew on things, the worse they would become in his mind. Then Harry had one last burst of inspiration., and he apparated away.
Harry shook his head to clear himself of the feeling of apparition, and gazed on the ruins of Hogwarts castle for the first time in 4 years. The final battle had taken place here and the scars still showed as deeply in the earth as they felt on his soul. Harry pushed aside his thoughts of the battle. There would be time enough later for dwelling on all that was lost here. For now he needed to find Ron, if he was here. Going on instinct, Harry headed towards the lake. He had to fight his way through the tall grass since there was no longer a keeper for these grounds. It didn’t take him long as he crested the hill to spot Ron’s flaming hair. He was sitting under the beech tree, gazing out at the water without moving. He made no sign that he knew Harry was there, but Harry knew that Ron was aware of his presence. It was one of the great things about best friends. Words weren’t necessary.
Harry stood for some time, trying to decide what to say. Finally he cleared his throat.
“Hanging out with all your friends?” he asked jokingly.
“Yep,” Ron said without turning around. “That’s why you weren’t invited.” His voice was full of pain and bitterness.
“Ron,” Harry started, but he was interrupted as his friend turned to face him for the first time.
“No, Harry. You don’t get to talk this time. For once it’s going to be my turn to say what I want to say.” Harry was taken aback, but he did not interrupt Ron’s tirade.
“Why?” Ron’s voice broke at this simple question. “Why her? You could have had anyone. You’re the boy-who-bloody-conquered!! “ Ron’s voice began to rise now, echoing off the water and seeming to join with the whispers of the wind in the tall grass. “Any girl in all the wizarding world would have fallen at your bloody feet, but you had to have the one girl Icould have had. You make me sick! You had everything else I ever wanted.” His voice receded into muffled sobs now. “You had everything... why her too?” He turned away to hide the tears streaming down his face.
“Ron,” Harry ventured softly. “I know you don’t want to hear this, but I never meant for this to happen. When you two split up_”
“Oh please, Harry. “ Ron said bitterly. “Spare me the when we split crap. Don’t insult me further.“ Seeing the confused expression on Harry’s face, Ron pressed on. “I’m sure you know I’m not the father of her child. Tell me, were you with her all along, or did she let you think it was mine too?”
“You think Amelia is mine?” Harry asked incredulously. “are you daft?”
“Shut-up!” Ron screamed at him stepping towards him in a aggressive manner. “Don’t lie to me!!! Don’t you dare fucking lie to me!”
“Ron, I swear to you, Amelia is not my child. And I had no idea that she wasn’t yours until yesterday. How can you think that? Don’t you know me better than that? Or Hermione?”
“I thought I knew both of you until this morning. I found out I was quite wrong on that count. I thought you were my friend, Harry. You were my brother.”
“I AM your brother, Ron. If you want me to say I’m sorry, I am. I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently, but I can’t. What happened me and Hermione was a long time coming. We may not have gone about things the right way, but I can’t be sorry for being with her. I love her.”
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Ron was looking at him now like he had never seen him before. "What, it's okay you shagged my bloody girlfriend because you're in love with her, too?"
"Ron, you were broken up."
"What, a whole hour?? Do you think that makes in better? You had no right, Harry! Friends don't do that to each other. You never even asked me."
"Did you ask me?" Harry snapped back at him, allowing his anger for the first time.
"What," Ron asked, clearly thrown by his question.
"You heard me. When you went after Hermione to begin with, did you ever even think to ask me if I minded."
"I did. I minded. I tried to tell myself, I was just worried about how it would affect out friendship, and what if I had to choose sides, but deep down I knew. Even then, I wanted her. I minded, dammit," Harry finished, a trace of wistfulness in his voice.
"But..." Ron trailed off, unsure of what to say to that. "But, you never said anything."
"No, I didn't. I didn't because you were my mate. I wanted you to be happy, and if she wanted you then who was I to stand in your way. I never wanted you to feel like I was trying to compete with you or one up you. So I just... I let it go. I pushed it aside and I refused to think about it."
"I never knew."
"I know. I'm still sorry."
They stood for a while in silence, gazing out at the still, black lake. Both of them had a lot to think about, and neither seemed to want to be the first to speak. Finally, Ron reached a decision.
"I'm going to need some time, Harry."
"I understand. I would, too." He paused and then plunged forward. "Do you hate me now?"
"No. I'm not going to say it doesn't hurt, but you gave me a lot to think about today. I can't see you with her right now, I just can't but..." he paused seeming to carefully consider his next phrase. "I will be okay in time. We will be ok."
"She didn't leave you for me, you know."
Ron let out a heavy sigh at that phrase.
"I know. She was never really with me in her heart. She tried, but it wasn't enough. I thought I could love her enough for both of us."
"I'm sorry, mate."
"Don't be. You can't help who you love, Harry."
After a few moments, Harry took their talk to be over and he began to walk away. He still felt guilty for what had happened, but there was a certain lightness in his heart now. Ron would forgive him. And Hermione. Some how this would all work out.
"Hey, Harry," Ron called out to him.
"Yeah." Harry turned around to face him.
"If you aren't Amelia's father, who is?"