Not in the Hands of Boys

Fourth Rose

Story Summary:
Once the final battle is won, life must go on, although it can be even harder to master than death. Back at Hogwarts for his final year of school, Harry tries to cope with everything he's been through. As the world around him struggles for a way back to normality, he is forced to realise that in the long run, living takes a lot more courage than dying.

Chapter 12 - Part 12

Author's Note:
Thanks to cloudlessnights for betaing!

Harry toed off his shoes and flopped onto the bed, mostly to avoid Ron's gaze. "What makes you so sure that I was with anyone tonight?"

Ron's answering grin was downright dirty. "If you gave yourself that hickey on your neck, I really want to hear how you did it."

Without thinking, Harry pulled the collar of his shirt up, which caused Ron's grin to widen even further. "Forget it, mate, it's right under your left ear, you'll have to charm it away before someone sees it."

"Before someone else sees it, you mean?" Harry asked pointedly, but Ron was undeterred.

"Who cares about that now? Spill!"

Harry closed his eyes and stretched languidly. "What if I don't want to talk about it?"

"Then I'll tell Hermione and let her question you." Ron snickered when Harry's eyes flew open again at this.

"You wouldn't!"

"Not if you tell me now."

Harry sighed; he wasn't really planning not to tell Ron, but he would have liked a bit of time to think about everything that had happened first. Ron seemed quite serious about his threat, though. "I was with Luna."

Ron made a face. "Fine, don't tell me, I'm sure Hermione will get you to talk."

"I'm not kidding," Harry replied impatiently; the fact that Ron dismissed the possibility out of hand rankled a bit. "A house-elf told me it was her birthday yesterday, and I went to her room to wish her a happy birthday, and it - well, it happened."

"God, you're serious." Ron seemed to have trouble digesting the news. "But - Luna, of all the girls in this school? I mean, don't get me wrong, she's great, but she's also... well, she's Luna! I had no idea you fancied her!"

"I don't," Harry replied curtly, regretting that he'd ever mentioned Luna's name. "And I don't think she fancies me either. We're friends, that's all there is."

"Except for the fact that you spent the night in her room, which doesn't look like friendship to me."

Harry shot him a glare. "You're one to talk. At least I am friends with her, which I suppose is more than you could say about Lavender."

He got some petty satisfaction from the way Ron's cheeks coloured up. "All right, I'll give you that."

"Since you're so busy nosing around in my private affairs, how about answering a few questions yourself? Did you ever get more than just lessons in face-eating from Lavender?" He'd been wondering that for a long time, but he'd never had the guts to ask Ron about it.

Ron's grimace was a strange mix between embarrassment and smugness. "Mate, her blow jobs were the only reason I put up with her for so long." Noticing Harry's expression, he added quickly, "I know, I know, and I'm not particularly proud of it, okay?"

"I wasn't - " Harry paused, trying to find words for what went through his mind. He remembered the feeling of Luna's arms around him, the warmth of her skin, the softness of her lips against his, and how he'd felt her heartbeat against his cheek when he'd fallen asleep with his head nestled in the crook of her shoulder. "I didn't mean to say that you shouldn't have done it. It's just that I can't imagine sleeping with a girl I don't like."

"Well, I didn't say I -" Ron had been avoiding Harry's gaze, but now his head whipped around as if something Harry had said had only now registered on him. "Wait a moment, you slept with Luna?"

Harry gave him an incredulous look. "What did you think we did all night, play Exploding Snap?"

"Bloody hell." Ron's eyes were round as saucers. "Here I am thinking you're still sulking over Ginny, and you go and get laid."

Harry shrugged; Ginny was a topic he really didn't want to breach. "It's not as if you and Hermione hold the monopoly or something, you know." Ron didn't answer, but his blush was now reaching nuclear brilliance. Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Does that mean you haven't?"

"Not - well, not quite." Ron started plucking at the hem of his pyjama jacket. "We've... fooled around, but we haven't... well, quite gone all the way yet."

Harry shrugged again, taking pity on Ron's stammering. "Nothing wrong with that." He was rather surprised he wasn't more embarrassed himself - Ron was his best mate, but they hadn't ever really discussed these matters on such a personal level before, so he'd have expected the whole situation to be a lot more awkward. Perhaps Luna's unconcerned attitude was contagious.

"I know, but - " Ron hesitated, but then pressed on. "It's - I really don't want to mess this up, you know? She's probably read books about it."

Harry couldn't help grinning at the image of Hermione doing research on sexual techniques with colour-coded notes, but he knew better than to mention that. "You'll be fine, Ron. It's not that difficult, trust me."

Ron threw a pillow at him. "Hey, one night doesn't make you an expert, you smug git!" He grew serious again when he added, "Or are you going back for more?"

Harry pondered the question. The idea of waking up with Luna again was definitely attractive; he couldn't remember when he'd last felt so safe and at peace. If they could do it once as friends, why not more than once too? "Yes, I suppose I am. Do you have a problem with that?"

"Not at all." Ron sounded like he meant it. "I'd rather have you hook up with Luna than keep mooning over my sister. It won't be pretty if she ever hears about this, though."

Harry winced. "Tell me something I don't know." He paused for a moment, carefully choosing his words. "Ron, I really hate doing anything that would hurt Ginny, but - if I keep this up, you understand that I can't very well keep it quiet?"

"Of course not. It would be pretty rotten behaviour towards Luna, if nothing else. Don't worry about Ginny, she'll come around. She can't expect you to never see anyone else, now that you've broken up."

Harry didn't mention that Ginny had already asked Neville out; Ron didn't need to know that, and after last night, he could understand it if Ginny was looking for the same kind of comfort Luna had given him. He hoped for her sake that she'd find it, even if he still had a hard time accepting the fact that it wouldn't be with him.

* * *

The bell had signalled the end of the day's last lesson ten minutes ago, but the door of the Defence classroom still hadn't opened. Draco was pointedly checking his watch for the fifth time while muttering something under his breath, obviously hoping to get a rise out of Harry, but Harry merely rolled his eyes. Snape had ordered them here to prepare the next lesson after he was done with teaching the younger seventh years, but he seemed to be working overtime today. Harry didn't like waiting in a draughty corridor any more than Draco did, but it hardly seemed worth making a fuss over.

Luna was among the first students to come out of the classroom when the door finally opened. Her face lit up as she spotted Harry, who grinned at her in return; today she had her hair done up in a bun with her wand stuck through it. She had stopped tucking it behind her ear after she'd almost taken Harry's eye out with it a few days earlier, and ever since, she kept coming up with creative new ways of carrying it on her person. Harry's favourite had been the day when she'd shoved it into her bra so that the tip poked out between her collarbones, but unfortunately Professor McGonagall had put a stop to that.

There were a few whispers from the students passing them when she kissed Harry on the cheek, but Harry didn't pay attention to them. He'd done nothing to hide the fact that he and Luna were seeing each other, but as far as he could tell, there had been surprisingly little reaction to it. It was, of course, entirely possible that they were all talking about nothing else behind his back, but he honestly didn't care.

"My God, Potter, it's true that you and Loony Lovegood have hooked up? I thought Blaise was having me on."

Harry clenched his teeth. Of course, if there was anyone in this school who didn't know when to keep his trap shut, it was Draco Malfoy. If he'd been alone with the git, he'd have given him a choice answer, but he didn't want to start a fight in front of Luna, so he decided to ignore him entirely.

Luna, however, seemed to have other ideas. "Yes, it's true," she replied mildly, giving Draco her brightest smile. "But I didn't know you cared so much about Harry's love life."

It was, Harry had to admit, a rather elegant comeback, but Draco took it in stride. "Oh, it's not as if I care," he answered with a smirk. "I only have a hard time deciding just who's the pity fuck in this relationship."

Harry's hand twitched towards his wand, but to his utter surprise, Luna burst out laughing. She laughed until she had to lean against Harry because her whole body shook; Harry was half expecting another snide comment from Draco about this, but then he noticed Draco was grinning in a way that didn't even look particularly malicious.

"That," Luna finally gasped between fits of giggles, "that was really funny, wasn't it, Harry?"

Harry failed to see any humour in the remark, but he couldn't help it that the sight of Luna, with her beet-red face and her streaming eyes, made him laugh too. It felt weird to stand there laughing about something that should have made him hex Draco on the spot, but it was strangely liberating, as if he'd entered a realm where petty insults couldn't touch him any more.

He was getting used to the fact that Luna constantly surprised him, but it still came as a bit of a shock when she suddenly turned towards Draco and said, "I'm glad you're feeling better."

Draco's grin faded. "What are you talking about? I wasn't ill."

"No, I mean better than when I was locked up in your parents' dungeon," Luna said serenely. "You looked like death warmed over whenever they sent you down to bring me food. Thanks for being nice to me then, by the way."

It wasn't lost on Harry how Draco paled at this. "What do you mean? I never said a word to you!" There was an edge of panic in his voice that filled Harry with no small amount of satisfaction.

"Yes, that's what I meant," Luna answered with a smile. "Sometimes they sent Fenrir Greyback, and he said quite a lot of things." Her tone was light, but her words still chilled Harry to the bone; he reached out to put an arm around her before he even realised what he was doing. Draco was visibly fighting to keep his composure; only Luna seemed unperturbed.

"I won't keep you any longer, Professor Snape must be waiting for you. Be careful in there, Harry, I could swear I felt a Wrackspurt zooming around, and they're particularly nasty at this time of year." She gave him another peck on the cheek, nodded at Draco and then left them to stare after her until she'd disappeared behind the next corner.

Draco was the first to find his voice again. "Your girlfriend is quite a piece of work, Potter, I'll give you that."

Harry turned to face him. "She is that," he answered calmly, "and I assure you I'll make you regret it until the end of your miserable life if you ever say anything like what you said before to her again."

"Whatever." Draco made a strange grimace, as if he couldn't decide whether he wanted to sneer or frown. "I've marked her essays, I know she isn't nearly as barking as she looks. I would even say she was quite smart if it weren't for her taste in men."

Before Harry could come up with a reply, he'd disappeared into Snape's classroom, and Harry had no other choice than to follow him.

* * *

It had snowed heavily the night before the next Hogsmeade weekend in late November, and their boots crunched through the thin layer of ice on top of the snow on their way to the village. Ron and Hermione, their arms around each other, were marching ahead, with Harry and Luna following them. In spite of warming charms and woollen gloves, Harry's fingers were so cold that he could hardly feel them, but he still clutched the hand Luna had held out towards him when they'd met outside the school gate. It had been a such a simple gesture, like many others she'd made in the course of the past month, but he'd come to treasure them more than he'd ever expected.

He'd almost been hoping that he would develop some kind of romantic feelings for Luna at some point, but so far there was no sign of it. Still, he greatly enjoyed their time together; just the fact that she was there by his side gave him a sense of belonging he'd rarely ever experienced in his life. As December drew nearer and the first Christmas decorations started appearing at the school, he had even caught himself slipping back into his old Christmas morning fantasy, with a bunch of children dancing around a tree and a warm body snug against his on the sofa; only now the children were blond instead of red-headed, and it was Luna, not Ginny, who was watching them with him and laughing at their excitement when they opened their presents.

He knew it was never going to happen - they just didn't feel for each other that way, and whatever it was they had going, it wouldn't outlast the school year. He didn't care, though; the fantasy was nice, and it made for a welcome distraction whenever he woke up from another dream that left him with the lingering image of Voldemort's cold red eyes on him, or a long row of still, broken bodies on the flagstones of the Great Hall. The nightmares usually were diffuse and not nearly as intense as they'd been at the beginning of the school year, but Harry was still glad there was a safe place for his mind to retreat to whenever he needed it. He hardly ever dreamed when he spent the night in Luna's bed, but if it did happen, she would hold him close and tell him weird little stories that made absolutely no sense until he fell asleep again.

The sex was fun too, although Luna seemed rather more interested in this aspect of their relationship than Harry was, which troubled him somewhat. There were evenings when he just couldn't muster up the energy and wanted nothing but to fall asleep with her curled up against him. Luna never said anything about it; she usually waited for him to initiate sex and seemed content with just a bit of snogging if he didn't. Even though Harry spent several nights in her room each week, they didn't actually make love all that often, and it didn't seem to bother Luna overmuch. Harry was grateful for it, but he still couldn't help wondering if there was something wrong with him because according to everything he'd heard from boys his age, he should by rights be the one who couldn't keep his hands off her.

Luna was rather adventurous in bed and liked to try new things (it made Harry suspect that it was actually her, not Hermione, who had read up extensively on the subject), and although Harry went along with her suggestions to please her, they usually didn't do much for him. What he liked best was to feel her close to him, her warm, smooth skin under his palms and the steady, reassuring pulse of her heartbeat against his.

Remembering the excruciating conversation with Ron on the first day of school, Harry had tried to concentrate on memories of the nights he'd spent with Luna when he was forced to make do with his own hands, but that was no smashing success either. He'd never really seen the point of wanking fantasies; it was something he did to take care of his body's demands, but six years in a dormitory had taught him to be quick and efficient about it. He preferred thinking of Luna during a quiet moment in class, or when he took a break from studying and ended up staring out of the window for a while. Then he pictured her laughter, the familiar smell of peppermint and patchouli that always surrounded her, her sparkling eyes when she spoke of her beloved magical beasts nobody else had ever heard of, and it caused a curious feeling of warmth to spread in his chest that felt almost better than anything he ever experienced during sex. It seemed a bit weird, but then, that was probably fitting when you were together with Luna Lovegood.

They reached the village just as it started snowing again. They went to Honeydukes first, and Luna managed to greatly impress Ron with her ability to keep an Acid Pop and a Pepper Imp in her mouth at the same time without so much as blinking, while Hermione winced in sympathy and Harry swore to himself that there would be no tongue during their next kiss. Then they made their way over to the Three Broomsticks, which was already packed; they managed to get one of the last free tables in a corner, and Ron went to get the first round of drinks for them. Luna and Hermione were comparing the sweets they had bought, and Harry leaned back in his seat and allowed himself a moment of utter contentment at the warm, comfortable normality of it all. He remembered sitting here with Ron and Hermione during their last visit and feeling like an intruder on what should have been their time together, but this was okay, it was just two couples out together to enjoy a Saturday afternoon.

Ron made his way back through the crowd with four foaming mugs of Butterbeer. Just as he put them on the table, the door opened, and he looked up and grimaced as if he'd tried Luna's Acid Pop/Pepper Imp stunt.

"Oi, Malfoy! Finally found someone who's willing to go out with you?"

Harry craned his neck and spotted Draco, his hair glittering with melting snowflakes, who had just entered the pub in the company of a sixth-year Ravenclaw boy whose name Harry didn't know. Draco ignored Ron, but the other boy, who had clearly heard what Ron had said, blushed furiously when he followed Draco to the bar.

"He's got some nerve, showing up here after what he did to Madam Rosmerta," Hermione said matter-of-factly. "Sit down, Ron, I won't have you pick a fight with him here."

"Fight with him? I bet he'd have run before I even got to that," Ron murmured under his breath, but sat down and reached for his Butterbeer nevertheless.

"Well, Madam Rosmerta doesn't work here any more," Luna remarked. "I heard she was scared of the Chappwickle living in the attic."

Hermione rolled her eyes, but she didn't say anything. Harry experienced a wave of gratitude; he knew how much Hermione would have liked to point out that all those fancy creatures Luna believed in didn't exist, and the fact that she was willing to hold her tongue for his sake meant a lot to him. He was still thinking about a safe topic of discussion when the door opened again, and Hermione, who was facing it, muttered "Oh dear" under her breath.

Harry didn't turn around; there was no need to. "It's Ginny, isn't it?"

"Yes, with Neville and Dean." Hermione sounded a bit embarrassed. "I don't think she's seen... erm, well, I think she now has."

"How afraid should I be?" Harry was quite amazed how calm he felt; perhaps it was thanks to Luna's hand that had slipped into his under the table so that Ginny wouldn't be able to spot it.

"Well, I wouldn't turn around if I were you, mate," Ron said with a grin that seemed highly inappropriate to Harry, given that it was Ron's sister they were discussing. "She'd give Slytherin's basilisk a run for its money. They're sitting down now, though, so I don't think she'll throw a hex your way."

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. "She's been ignoring me for the past two months, I don't see why that would change now."

"You should consider yourself lucky," Ron pointed out; he still appeared mostly amused by the whole encounter. "It's better than Bat-Bogey Hexes, isn't it?"

"Yes, and Ginny is rather good at them too," Luna added earnestly, which finally broke the tension. Harry reached for his Butterbeer and decided that he wasn't going to ruin a perfect afternoon by worrying about Ginny; there was nothing he could do about her, after all.

When he looked up from his glass, he spotted Draco at the bar, who was casting a furtive glance in his direction and then quickly looked away again. Harry fleetingly wondered if the Slytherin git was up to something since he and his Ravenclaw companion seemed rather ill at ease, but he wasn't willing to worry about him today either.