"Listen," said Dean, sliding into the seat next to Harry's at the pub. "Seamus and I have found this gorgeous flat, perfect location, the kitchen is fantastic, and the view! You couldn't get a better view in London, unless you're the bloody Queen. Naturally, we desperately want it." Dean paused for dramatic effect, and Harry waited for the ball to drop. "There's only one downside. It's huge, and expensive as fuck. We need roommates."
"Roommates," said Harry. "I thought you and Seamus wanted to, how do I put it, enjoy marital bliss in peace?"
"It's not marital bliss until you're married," Dean pointed out. "Anyhow. Roommates. No straight people allowed, because last time we did that it sucked, and not in the good way. Do you need a place to live? You get second choice of bedroom."
Harry sipped his beer. "Are you asking me because of the, er, rumours about me or because you miss my socks lying around in the dormitory?"
"We need to sign the lease tomorrow or we lose it, so just say yes," Dean pleaded. "And we need at least two roommates, so if you know someone else who needs a place to stay, let me know. Don't say Malfoy, he's not allowed to live with us," he added, when Harry opened his mouth.
"Okay, so I won't suggest Malfoy," Harry said. "But will he be allowed to, uh, visit?"
Dean narrowed his eyes at Harry, then groaned. "Fine. When did that happen? Seamus owes me ten Galleons if it was this week. Please say it was this week."
"Last month," Harry said, smug as you please. Dean groaned again.
"Ugh. But you're in?"
"Yeah, sure, I'm in. Owl me the details."
"Mum's kicking me out," Ron said, bent over a massive plate of fried eggs and bacon. "She says I'm too damn old to still be living at home."
"Well," said Harry, diplomatically, "you are an adult with an adult job. Don't the Aurors pay well?"
Ron muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'but mum' and 'cooks best'.
"Well, I'm moving into a new place," Harry said.
He probably meant it as an encouragement, but Ron's hungover brain, grieving over his mum's cooking, seemed to have heard something else entirely. "You're not moving in with Malfoy, are you?"
"What? No! Why would I do that?" Harry said, shiftily, while shifting in his chair. "I'm rooming with Dean and Seamus in their new place. They're looking for roommates."
Ron perked up. "Do they have room for me?"
"No straight people allowed, mate," Harry said.
"So you are moving in with Malfoy!" Ron accused. "He'll be moving with you, won't he?"
"Don't be ridiculous. He'll just be visiting."
"Ugh," Ron said. "Sure they won't have me? I'm chill. And we shared a dormitory for six years."
Harry shrugged. "I'll ask, but no promises."
"Hello?" Cormac knocked again. "Is anyone home?" He double-checked the address. This was definitely the place. This was definitely also the day, and the time. He knocked harder. "Hell—oh. Hi. Cormac McLaggen, at your service."
The person who opened the door was giving him one of those dubious looks, as if they were looking at a vending machine and trying to figure out which way to put the coins in. Vending machines were hard. He was not.
"I'm Harry," he said, and let Cormac enter. "This is Dean, and this is Seamus. It's their place. Our fourth roommate, Ron, is asleep, but I think that's okay? Okay."
They all looked familiar. "You all look familiar." Cormac sat in the chair Harry had given him. "Have we met?"
The three of them exchanged looks, and then Harry cleared his throat. "We're Gryffindors?" he said. "We, uh, were in the year below you at school?"
Well, that'd explain it! There were a lot of Gryffindors in the world, and Cormac couldn't possibly remember them all.
"So," Dean said, clearing his throat. So much throat clearing going round! These men clearly needed to hydrate. "You're the seventh potential roommate we're interviewing, so let's get the basics out of the way. I, my fiancée Seamus here, and Harry, are all queer—"
"Oh, I don't discriminate," Cormac said, giving them his most dazzling smile. He was ready to ace this interview.
They had been interviewing Cormac McLaggen for thirty minutes, and annoyingly, he was the best candidate so far. Of course, he was also the worst candidate.
- Has lived in a frat house in America while getting his degree, so knows how to live with other people (after Hogwarts, that is)
- Doesn't smoke
- Has a steady job, so can pay rent on time (what the hell is Sports Medicine??)
- Picks up after himself (see #1)
- Is very, very fit, so it would not be a hardship to have that hunk of man walking around the place (co-signed by Dean and Seamus, Harry would like it known that he does NOT agree with this assessment)
- Seems a bit dumb, but in a cheerful, friendly, dog-like way??
- It's Cormac McLaggen
"Okay," Dean said, clearly running out of things to say, or ask about. "Uhm. So, uh, why did you apply to us, and not, uhm, anywhere else?"
"I miss my fraternity brothers," Cormac answered. "I live alone right now, and I can't get used to it. I just want to be around people. I thrive in an all-male environment."
None of them could find much fault with that. Harry had already given up; Cormac was really the best choice right now, and they needed that fifth person to split the bills.
The door to Ron's bedroom opened and he walked out, bleary-eyed and half naked in boxers only, and made a beeline for the fridge. He'd been up all night on a stake out, or something.
To Harry's surprise, Cormac swung round in his chair to look at Ron. Cormac's eyes were fixed on Ron's bare chest (and other parts that Harry would prefer not to notice) with very clear, focused interest. Cormac, for some reason none of them could fathom, was looking at Ron like he wanted to have him for breakfast, dinner, and dessert.
"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Harry heard Seamus whisper to Dean, so he looked away from Cormac and his sudden fixation on Ron to engage in some silent communication with Dean and Seamus.
Guys!!! Seamus seemed to be saying.
I don't know how to feel about this, Dean seemed to be saying. But I think I'm about to die.
I'm definitely dying, Harry tried to convey. Want to bet on the outcome?
Thus, they unanimously agreed that Cormac was definitely the best fit for a new roommate.
"Ron!" Dean called out. "Come say hi to our new roommate!"
"Twenty Galleons Ron decks him," Seamus whispered.
"Thirty Ron doesn't recognise him," Dean countered, also in a whisper.
"Fifty that they're fucking by the end of the month," Harry said. "What? I'm good for it."
Ron had come over. "Hi," he said, and shook Cormac's hand. "Cormac McLaggen, is it? I remember you from school."
"Yes," Cormac said, smooth as silk, smile as dazzling as a toothpaste commercial. "I certainly remember you from school. Ron Weasley?"
Harry swung round to give Dean and Seamus a told-you-so eyebrow.
"You're not getting paid yet," Seamus hissed.
Something weird was going on in this house, and it was not the fact Malfoy practically lived in Harry's room, though that was pretty weird all things considered. No, something weird was going on, and it'd started the day McLaggen had moved in.
It wasn't the staggering amounts of homemade protein yoghurt shakes in the fridge, or the appearance of gym equipment in one corner of the living room. It also wasn't the fact McLaggen regularly had both girls and blokes staying the night in his room, or the chores rota pinned to the fridge.
The rota was written in a hand that didn't belong to him, Harry, Dean, or Seamus, and thus had to belong to McLaggen. There were little stars on the damn rota, and every time you did your assigned task, you'd accumulate more stars to your name. Ron hated it, and he hated that it worked, but he was the holder of most stars. It shouldn't be a matter of pride, but it was.
"Where did it come from," Ron muttered, wiping down the counters and watching the rota from the corner of his eye. Sure enough, a star flittered from the bottom of the rota to affix itself next to Ron's name.
"Cormac," Harry said, and Ron spun around. He hadn't noticed him there. "But I helped. Children like rewards."
"We're not children!" Ron sputtered. "Also, traitor."
"Pedagogy is the same at all age levels." Harry shrugged. "How are you getting along with Cormac, by the way?" he added, too sly for his own good. "I heard he was looking for a new jogging partner?"
Ron had in fact been jogging with McLaggen every day this week. Harry knew that. Everyone knew that. Ron also used to enjoy jogging. Used to. "I hate jogging with him," he said. "It's the worst."
"The. Worst." Ron made a face. McLaggen was one of those annoying types who made everything look easy, and looked gorgeous while doing it, and were so goddamn cheerful and supportive that okay, you did push yourself a little harder just to see them smile and be happy that you made it, but also, fuck them. Ron hated jogging with Cormac.
"If you say so," Harry said, and shrugged. He left the kitchen, ignoring the chores rota (he had a decent amount of stars accumulated, but tended to collect them at really odd hours, like late at night when Malfoy couldn't make it over after all and he needed an outlet for all his pent up sexual frustration. Ron had suggested he come back to the Aurors, but alas, Harry was hell bent on becoming a teacher.)
Back to the point, which was: something weird was going on, and Ron couldn't put his finger on it.
"Honestly, every time I come here I'm afraid I might catch something," Draco said, looking around in disgust. "Like abs." He side-eyed Cormac, who was doing one-handed pushups on the floor. "This is a jock hellhole. Why do you make me come here? More to the point, why are you like this?" he said to Harry.
"I'm not a jock!" Dean protested. "I'm an artist!" Dean was, however, doing stretches in his football uniform, so he wasn't very convincing. Seamus was doing yoga, and Ron had just come back from a run, so was also doing stretches.
Cormac was the one who'd introduced the term jock to them; he'd said that his fraternity house in America had been 'full of gay jocks', which they were meant to understand to mean 'men who obsess over sports, and are also gay'. Cormac had proudly declared himself one of them, while wiggling his eyebrows at Ron. Harry had made exaggerated kissing noises into Draco's ear at the time but Draco latched on to the (in his own words) loathsome American Muggle word because (in his own words) it was an accurate descriptor of this place.
And well, Cormac was right. This place was...full of gay jocks. It was, essentially, a frat house of gay jocks.
Harry was the only one currently not working out. "Because you love me, and I’m a jock," he said to Draco, even though he’d been letting his workout routine fall by the wayside these days. There was no way he was getting in between Ron and Cormac.
Also, he quite liked having the sofa to himself and Draco.
"Don't flatter yourself," Draco said, but his cheeks had pink spots. "When's the entertainment starting?" he added, in a whisper.
"Watch," Harry whispered back, and nodded towards Ron and Cormac.
It'd been more than a month, which meant Harry had already lost his bet. But more to the point, the situation had become unbearable.
First, Ron would come back from a run or a workout at the gym down the street, and he'd do his cool-down stretches near the spot where Cormac, inevitably, would always be doing his workout.
Then Cormac would increase the difficulty of the workout he was doing, which was why he was currently doing one handed push ups and not just the regular ones. Ron would stare. Then Ron would realise he was staring, and would change position. Then Cormac would stare. And round it went, until Cormac finally decided he was finished, at which point he'd try to chat Ron up.
And Ron, oblivious as he was—and frankly, it was astounding, considering he lived with three bi guys and a gay guy (two gay guys, if you counted Draco, which they did not because Draco certainly wasn't paying any bills)—would take everything Cormac said at face value.
"I can help you work out your kinks," Cormac would say, turning his blinding white smile on Ron, leaning over him suggestively.
"Great," Ron would say, "there's something off in my shoulder, would you take a look? It makes this crunchy sound."
"Sure," Cormac would say, soldiering on. "I also have some lotion in my room, if you're interested? I have a nimble touch—hit me up for a massage anytime."
"This is a train wreck," Draco whispered, baffled and horrified all at once.
"Are you kidding me? It's the best thing ever," Dean said, having joined them on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn. He offered it to Draco.
"I'm in physical pain," Seamus added. He was leaning over the back of the sofa, reaching for a handful of popcorn. "But it's so great."
"My soul is about to depart my body from sheer second-hand embarrassment," Draco said. "Sweet Heavens. Deliver me from this Earth."
In front of them, the train wreck was still going strong. Cormac was helping Ron with a stretch, hands firmly on his body as he directed Ron. Ron was groaning. Cormac's face was all determination.
"He's like a dog," Draco commented, fascinated and horrified all at once. "Doggedly pursuing his doggy treat."
"We know," Harry whispered back, full of glee. He hadn't had this much fun in ages.
"Guys, we need to do something." Ron had gathered his roommates, bar one, in the kitchen. "I want to suggest a new house rule."
"Oh?" Dean was the one who'd asked, but all three of them had raised their eyebrows at him. Ron tried to ignore it.
"I'd like to instate a rule that you can't, uh, bring anyone over. It's distracting."
"Is this a Cormac only rule, or is it an everybody rule?" Harry asked. "Just to be clear. Because I'm sure you've noticed I bring people over all the time."
"Last time I checked Malfoy was just one person," Ron said. "Guys seriously, McLaggen's room is next to mine and I can't take it anymore."
"It's a free world," Dean said, casual-like. "He can date anyone he likes."
Ron was dying. Did they not understand that? "Guys." He would beg if he had to. Anything to get rid of the serious discomfort he felt every time McLaggen was "entertaining" in his room. "I'm. I swear I'm not homophobic, I just. Absolutely hate it. And he had a girl over last night! So it's not that! I'm chill!"
He was not chill.
"Here's a wild idea," Harry said, after a prolonged and uncomfortable silence in which the three of them had been giving Ron thoroughly unimpressed looks, and Ron had been squirming. "How about you date Cormac and put all of us out of our misery?"
"What?" Ron laughed. And laughed. And laughed. And stopped, once he realised nobody else was laughing, and that it had not been a joke. "What."
"Think about it," Harry said, not unkindly.
Think about it! Something had clearly buggered his brain, because...okay, he was thinking about it. And his brain was melting.
"Well, we'll leave you to it," Harry said, and clapped Ron's shoulder. He left, Dean and Seamus with him.
Leave him to it! Leave him to what?
Cormac came into the kitchen in search of one of his abundant home made protein milk shakes. He was glistening with sweat, and had taken his shirt off (a regular occurence), so all his many abs and whatnot were on prominent display. Waxed chest and all.
Ron was dying. He was absolutely dying.
The kitchen was rarely crowded early in the morning, which suited Cormac just fine—he liked to go for an early run or workout and had usually eaten and showered by the time the rest of the house woke up, at which point he was headed to work anyway.
But this morning, when it would have suited him the best to have an empty kitchen, not because he'd been out for a run or a workout, but because he'd spent all night finally ravishing Ron, and he just wanted to quickly grab them some water and some food so they could go back to the ravishing—the kitchen was crowded.
Harry and Malfoy were drinking black coffee and eating waffles, Malfoy more or less sitting in Harry's lap (Malfoy was so not Cormac's type, but he could appreciate a good twink when he saw one), and Dean and Seamus were dancing around each other making the waffles.
"Morning," Cormac said, mortified. He glanced at the clock on the wall. It was definitely five AM, and not, say, eight AM, which was a reasonable hour for his roommates to be awake.
"Morning," Malfoy said, pointedly, and then downed his entire mug of coffee.
"Uh," Cormac said, like an idiot.
"What's taking you so lon—oh." Ron stopped just behind Cormac. "Uhm. Good morning?"
"You should hydrate," Dean said, more chipper than Cormac had ever seen him in the morning. He had a feeling Dean was making fun of him, but then again, hydrating was important.
"Yes, actually, that's, uh…excuse me," Cormac said, and quickly fetched two bottles of water from the fridge. "Mind if I grab—thanks." He accepted the plate of waffles that Seamus handed him. "You're the best roomies I have ever had. Thanks guys!"
He retreated quickly, dragging Ron with him.
"Have fun!" Malfoy yelled after them. "And close the fucking door!"
"Cheers!" A chorus sounded from the kitchen.
"Bloody hell," Ron said, all red in the face. "I knew we forgot something. Those waffles are damn good, though."
The waffles were very good, and Cormac couldn't even bring himself to care about the excessive carb intake he was indulging in. He'd do a lot of things for Ron. "Should we...move out?"
Ron shrugged and inhaled another waffle. "Nah, they'll get over it."