by Victoria P.

Harry's first night back at number twelve Grimmauld Place was a horror. Nightmares set him writhing about on the bed in a way he hadn't since the first few days after -- and it was still hard to think about it -- after what happened at the Ministry of Magic.

He knew they were regular nightmares, not anything to do with his connection to Voldemort, and all the more horrifying for being products of his own mind. His parents turning away from him for being unable to save Sirius. Sirius yelling at him for being a lousy godson, a failure. Bellatrix laughing as he tried and failed again and again to avenge Sirius's death, Neville's parents, every wrong done either of them over the course of their lives.

It was almost worse than the silent resignation he saw in Professor Lupin's eyes. Almost, but not quite. At least he woke up from the nightmares.

So there was Ron in the bed across from him, and Hermione - 'when did she get here? Does Mrs. Weasley know?' - the two of them in secret conference, no doubt trying to solve the problem of Harry.

He hated them for it, even though he loved them.

And then Hermione said, "Harry, why don't you come over here?" She patted the bed.

"Yeah, mate, there's room," Ron added, waving a hand.

He stared at them; without his glasses, their faces were vague, pale blurs in the darkness.

"Are you sure?"

Hermione huffed. "Of course we're sure, Harry. We wouldn't have offered if we weren't."

He couldn't argue in the face of Hermione's logic. She was really quite annoying that way; he reminded himself again to never end up on her bad side. With a groan, he stood and dragged himself over to the other bed, falling onto it like a ton of bricks.

Ron and Hermione squirmed a little, then lay down, one of either side of him. He could feel Ron, muscles locked tight in an effort not to touch or be touched in any way that might be considered... more than friendly, while Hermione stroked his hair off his forehead much as Mrs. Weasley might, though her hand shook slightly.

"That's better, isn't it?" she said, and he nodded, though it wasn't really. It was just scary in strange new ways.

They didn't do it every night. But the fact that they could comforted Harry on some level.

He didn't ask about what Ron and Hermione got up to when they were alone together. He wasn't surprised at their sudden stumble into coupledom, but he thought they might be. Ron was, at any rate. Harry couldn't help but laugh at the startled expression Ron wore sometimes, usually after he'd come back from "doing chores" with Hermione. Hermione was livelier than she'd ever been, and Harry noticed that she was prettier, too. Not as done up as she'd been the night of the Yule Ball, but her hair looked less like a dried and overgrown hedge and more like, well, hair.

He was surprised at how soft it was under his fingers and how nice it smelled when he buried his face in it at night. He understood Ron's stupefied smiles completely, and was grateful to Ron for sharing a little of what he'd found.

It was more difficult when school started again. There were three other boys in the room, and Harry had no doubt Seamus would tell the whole school if he climbed into Ron's bed after a nightmare. It wasn't that Harry cared if people thought he was gay, though he thought Ron might not like it. He was just tired of gossip, of being the object of hidden whispers and conversations that stopped when he entered the room. He wasn't going to give anyone anything more to talk about, if he could help it.

But the nightmares were always waiting.

He was back in the Department of Mysteries. The Veil fluttered, though there was no breeze. Sirius was falling as Bellatrix's harsh laughter rang out.

"You could have saved him," Lupin whispered in his ear. "You should have saved him." And then he was stumbling forward, falling toward the arch. His glasses slipped and he couldn't see, couldn't hear, everything was dark--

"Harry. Harry, wake up."

He jolted upright, heart pounding, sticky with sweat, to see Ron sitting on the edge of the bed.


"You utter git."

"You've been having nightmares all week and we could have helped if you let us." Harry turned in surprise to see a vague outline that was Hermione on his right.


"Didn't want to be a bother. I know," Hermione said, and though he couldn't see, Harry had a feeling Ron was rolling his eyes.

Ron poked him. "Shove over."

"But, people will think-- I don't want--"

"S'okay, Harry. I don't care. Anyone who calls me a poof will have to face Hermione," he said. Hermione nodded decisively.

Ron lay down, pulling Harry back onto the bed with him, then curled his body around Harry, his long arms pulling Hermione into the embrace. He nudged Harry's shoulder with his head and said, "Sleep now."

Harry took comfort in having Hermione snuggled up against him. He was always surprised at how soft she was. She smelled of sleep and lilac shampoo. Ron, all planes and angles, his skeleton outgrowing his flesh at the moment, pressed in behind him (the beds at Hogwarts were nowhere near as roomy as those in Grimmauld Place). Ron smelled faintly of sweat and grass and pumpkin juice. Good smells. Familiar smells. Weeks of sleeping this way had left them able to relax into each other without worry, after that first night of anxious not-touching.

Harry felt safe and drowsy between them, and drifted off into dreamless sleep for the first time in a week.

He woke in a heavy tangle of limbs, with weak pre-dawn light filtering through a crack in the bed-curtains. Ron's arm was around his waist, and his long, bony fingers had worked their way beneath Harry's pajama top at some point, so Ron's hand was splayed out against the skin of Harry's belly. Harry's hand rested on one of Hermione's breasts, small and firm, the nipple peaked against his palm. She stirred and rubbed against him like a contented cat, eyes fluttering open in surprise.

"Oh," she said. She turned to face him, and smiled a small, secret smile.

Harry thought he'd never seen anything as truly beautiful as Hermione was in that moment, tousled and sleepy. He pressed his mouth to hers in a fierce, closemouthed kiss.

Then he realized what he was doing and pulled away in shock. "I--"

"S'all right, mate," Ron said, thick with sleep. His fingers moved lightly over the skin on Harry's stomach, sending shivers down his spine. "What friends are for. Isn't it, Hermione?"

Hermione reached up and brushed Harry's fringe off his forehead, that smile still playing about her lips.


Drawing a relieved but shaky breath, Harry smiled back, and pressed his face to Hermione's neck.


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