Characters/Pairings: Ron/Hermione, Antonin Dolohov, Charlie and Ginny Weasley
Warnings: rape, graphic violence, mild swearing, nudity, character death
Length: 9,620 words
Summary: Ron and Hermione suffer through twin torture experiences but as Ron compares himself to Hermione he finds himself lacking and pulls away from those who love him. Hermione tries to convince him that fear and memories are not weakness but in the end Ron must see his own strength.
Author Notes: Thanks to oncelikeshari, who introduced me to Ron fandom, to live journal, and to this triatha_ron. Thank you. Your writings have taught all I need to know about Ron.
Ron tried to force the bile back down his throat but when the hooded Death Eater entered into his cell, he lost the battle against his body. He struggled not to cry in shame as he felt the sticky, smelling vomit hit his already sodden shirt, mixing with the blood and dirt there. The Death Eater laughed as Ron, even though his knew that there was nothing left in his stomach, captured his lips with his teeth until they, too, bled.
The Death Eater, still hooded and laughing weakly to himself, crossed the floor until he was two feet from the wall Ron was strapped to. One liver- spotted, crusty hand lifted to lower the hood and remove the mask, and Ron felt all fear leave him. Replacing it was a fierce, burning hatred that ate Ron's pain and gave him new strength. The bonds around his arms strained, strangling his wrists as Ron attempted to mangle the smirking face of Antonin Dolohov.
"I just saw your slut of a girlfriend, Weasel, and she didn't smell half as bad as you. In fact, she tasted mighty sweet." Dolohov licked his lips. "I understand why you were banging her, Weasel, even if she is a Mudblood."
He spat after the word as though expressing it had contaminated him as well before he continued.
"I can still feel her writhing underneath me. Does she do that for you, Weasel? She was moaning your name until I had to silence the bitch. She quieted up quite nicely."
Dolohov's eyes glittered as his saw Ron's face turn from bright-red fury to murderous white, his freckles in stark contrast, dancing in the candle-light.
Ron knew what Dolohov was wanted from him but he wasn't going to let himself go. He would not give into the bait. A trickle of blood ran down his chin as he adjusted his bite, but other than that, Ron did not move.
Dolohov sighed dramatically and shrugged off his cloak, revealing worn brown pants and a once white top, which was now stained with sweat and blood.
"You disgust me, Weasel." Dolohov said while raising his arms.
In almost lazy motion, he swept his wand against Ron's chest and mumbled an incoherent charm. The already battered shirt fell away from Ron in strips, and lay forgotten on the floor. Ron couldn't help but shiver as his naked back was thrust against the cold slime of the wall.
He wanted to shrink away from the look Dolohov was now giving him. There was hunger and longing as the pale eyes traveled from the dimple in the pit of Ron's neck down to Ron's slipping waistband.
He had been too lazy to mend the broken buckle of his belt that very morning and had left their campsite with one hand holding up his trousers. Always skinny, Ron had lost so much weight during the Horcrux hunt that none of his old jeans fitted him any more. Just yesterday, Hermione had teased him about putting a belt on his slipping pajama bottoms. He had blushed furiously at the time, but Ron, squeezing his eyes tight against the threatening tears now realized he would give anything to turn back time, just once, before the Horcrux search — before everything.
He opened his eyes and was thankful to see that Dolohov's attention had been redirected. Now that Ron strained his ears, he could just faintly hear the sounds of a commotion far down the corridor from his cell. Apparently the crashes and shouts were not important enough for Dolohov, whose greedy eyes had returned to Ron's torso.
"Since the Mudblood wanted you so badly, we should hardly deny her any longer now, should we?"
Dolohov grinned as Ron's expressionless face slipped and his bright blue eyes went wide with terror.
"Bring the Mudblood in"
Two thickset guards took the order and all too soon Hermione was being dragged into the damp cell. Ron could not tear his eyes away from her. She couldn't seem to get her bearings, stumbling across the uneven floor.
Ron suspected that if hadn't been for the two men on either side of her, Hermione would have collapsed where she stood. Indeed, once the trio had made its across the threshold, Hermione was thrown into the far corner where she lay unmoving, curled toward the wall.
The guards turned and left, without speaking, shutting and locking the cell door once more. The noise echoed and Ron felt all the fear returned to him with a sudden blast, like a cold wind. It rolled around in the pit of his stomach as he tried to give Hermione some dignity but he could not wrench his eyes away from her.
He wanted to cry out in sympathy. Hermione seemed completely unaware of the position she was in; she remained huddled in her corner, clinging at the scraps of her clothing. He wanted to see her face; to see the fire of determination that had convinced him to allow her to come with him on this mission.
"Hermione." Ron hadn't meant to say it but her name was so easy on his lips that he couldn't contain himself. Dolohov laughed when Hermione suddenly looked up, wildly.
Hermione was sobbing and suddenly Ron knew what true torture was. Her face was almost unrecognizable, most of it covered in blue and black bruises. What wasn't mangled, her tears and wild hair marred. It was only her voice that made her indisputably recognizable to Ron.
"Oh, how sweet. I should have reunited you two sooner. All well, perhaps we can have a second round, pet, and let Weasel watch."
Dolohov now turned gloatingly from Ron to Hermione, who had hid her face at the sound of Dolohov's voice.
"Tut, tut," he scolded. "Come now, pet, you must look up while I torture your boyfriend, otherwise I won't have any fun."
Hermione merely shook her head, her hair flopping around. Ron struggled against his bonds. He could strangle Dolohov while his back was turned. If only he could get free. If only.
"Come now," cooed Dolohov, "I don't have time to play these games. Imperio!"
Hermione raised her head; her face was blank, eyes glassy. Ron stared horror-struck, as Dolohov moved closer.
"Give us a kiss before I start with the Weasel."
Hermione leaned in, puckered, while Dolohov raised his gnarled hand to stroke her tender face. Ron, feeling the bile once more return to his throat, shouted, not thinking but just hoping Dolohov would never touch her again.
It was enough. Months of practice with Harry had provided them all with enough skill to throw off mildly strong imperious curses. Hermione shook herself out from underneath Dolohov's reaching hand and spat in his face. He growled and used his up-raised hand to slap her back into the corner before turning to Ron.
Ron felt his punishment in every bone of his body. Dimly he could hear Hermione screaming, but his own cries drowned out her voice. Dolohov lifted the curse and Ron hung limply from his bonds, the coarse cords cutting into his skin.
Raising his head he saw Dolohov swish around again and grab Hermione by the throat before he thrusting her into her own shackles. Next he raised his wand and muttered a charm that tugged Hermione's hair upward.
She looked like some sort of ghost, with her bushy hair billowing out toward the ceiling. The charm was taunt enough that she was unable to bow her head and her straight-forward gaze was forced directly at Ron.
"Come and watch show, pet, and afterwards we can celebrate together."
Ron drew a deep breath and prepared himself for what was yet to come.
Ron was barely breathing when the last curse was lifted. While he panted and hung listlessly on his ropes, Dolohov rubbed sweat out of his eyes. Large beads were rolling down from his cropped hair, over the rolls of his neck, staining the rumpled collar of his shirt.
Black mist drifted in and out of Ron's periphery vision. The small rational part of his brain was trying to convince all the aching muscles of his body that surely Dolohov must be growing tried of his game.
He had resorted to hexes after breaking Ron's feet. Ron struggled to remember if he had passed out before or after his second foot was shattered beneath the lead mallet. Not that it mattered. His fainting spell hadn't last long, though; Dolohov was determined to see Ron live through his pain.
For the past half an hour, Ron thought he had been magically reawakened three times, though he wasn't sure. He wasn't sure of anything at the moment except that he must stop himself from passing out again.
It was better if he stayed awake, allowing the pain in his feet, shoulders, and chest to slowly numb to an aching throb. Every time Dolohov had enervated him, every wound and pain was reawakened as well, double in strength, each cut, each bruise, each break feeling fresh once more.
Dolohov sighed as he rolled onto the heels of his feet while he surveyed his handiwork. Ron felt himself grumbling under Dolohov's unflinching gaze, but blinking the tears away, Ron grabbed at the last remains of his consciousness.
Shifting his gaze away from the taunt smile on Dolohov's face, Ron looked instead upon Hermione's face, hovering in an out of focus just above Dolohov's left shoulder.
She had stopped crying out loud some time ago and even the steady trail of tears had lessened. Now she looked blank with her gaze on Ron, but there was no recognition in her eyes.
Dolohov began to roll up his drooping sleeves while talking aloud to the cell at large.
"I think that that's all you can handle, now, Weasel. I can't kill you until Potter comes. How long do you think it will take him to rescue you? I would have expected him by now but perhaps he isn't coming. Maybe he has decided that riffraff like you, Weasel, aren't worth his time."
Ron felt his stomach grow cold. When he had first announced his strategy to Harry and Hermione it had seemed the simple necessary action. It had been an easy and collected plan and only Hermione had seen any flaw in it. Ron had thought it was best if he were to go on ahead and stir up trouble among the Death Eater's camp, lighting fireworks, pulling stunts, and mainly causing havoc. Then, later, Harry and Hermione would go around unnoticed and kill Voldemort before anyone was any the wiser.
Ron knew it was risky plan but it only seemed logical in his head. He knew he would be the one to go. It was his duty. It was his right.
"But what if you get captured, Ron?" Hermione had whispered.
Ron had convinced them that it was actually better if he was captured.
"Then, they will keep me alive until Harry rescues me. They think that I will be enough bait to draw Harry in to their clutches. But you won't do that, mate." Ron had turned to Harry when he had said this last part. "You are going to let me be captured and let me rot. You got to go after Who know—Voldy before those slimy Death Eaters realize it's a trap."
He hadn't realized how foolish it was, then. Ron knew that Harry wasn't coming for him. He had told him not to, but Dolohov's words had caught him like a surprise punch to the gut. "Maybe, he had decided that riffraff like you, Weasel, aren't worth his time."
Dolohov, who had finished with his sleeves, now turned to Hermione, and Ron wanted to cry out in frustration. There was nothing he could do. He was useless and weak, and couldn't do one damn thing to save his girlfriend from being raped again.
"Are you excited, pet? It is your turn."
Dolohov was walking slowly as if to keep Hermione in anticipation for as long as possible. Hermione couldn't look at Dolohov, with the charm holding her head to stare at Ron, but her eyes had grown wide with terror as Dolohov took his first steps toward her.
Her voice was croak, awful and ragged. Ron started to clear his throat to respond to her but suddenly Dolohov whipped around and silenced him. Ron stretched his throat fruitlessly and felt tears running down his face as Hermione cried out again.
"Ron? Ron! Ron, please." He could hear the panic in her voice, magnifying his feeling of helplessness.
Ron began weeping as Hermione's shrieks escalated. He tried to call out to her again but it was pointless. Hermione was locked in a nightmare and he could do nothing to save her from Dolohov or her own pain.
Dolohov was chuckling softly to himself, as Hermione's pleads had turned into incomprehensible blubbering. Dolohov had stopped walking and was unbuckling his belt. As the metal clanged together Hermione stopped and made a conscious effort to strengthen herself. The tears were still flowing but she wasn't making any noise and her chin, still wrinkled from crying stiffened at Dolohov's approach.
Suddenly, closer than they had ever been before, crashes and shouts distracted Dolohov, who whipped his head toward the cell door, which opened. A puffy-eyed, balding guard stuck his head through the threshold as the noise outside was suddenly stifled and an eerie silence filtered through with the weak light of the hall.
The guard's red-rimmed iris skittered over Hermione's position and her shedding clothes to Dolohov's unbuttoned pants up to his furious face.
"Malfoy says he needs you."
"I don't take orders from Lucius," Dolohov spat the name with obvious displeasure.
"He says he's got a new plaything for you if the Weasel and the Mudblood are spent."
Again the guard glanced at Hermione, his hungry eyes lingering over her chest. Thankfully Hermione seemed unaware of the attention but continued taking deep breaths, in an obvious calming measure.
"Darwin!" And the guard's gaze snapped beck to Dolohov's face. "Is it good?" Dolohov's eyes bore into the guards as though trying to decide whether Malfoy's treat was better than the two he had at the moment.
"He told me I could quote one word to you: 'fiery'"
Dolohov's eyes lit up before saying to Darwin, "Get along now."
The guard turned and shuffled out. Dolohov turned back to the cell, so that both Hermione and Ron could see him, even though they were restricted by their bonds. Dolohov eyed Hermione once more before raising his wand as a blue flame shot out and broke the hold on Hermione's hair.
Another wave and her bonds were broken. She crumpled to the stone floor.
With that Dolohov turned and opened the door when Ron sighed. He hadn't made any noise, still silenced by Dolohov's spell, but his bonds creaked and as his chest rose and fell.
Dolohov turned to the noise.
"What was that, Weasel? I'd forgotten about you, but then again I suppose that is a common mistake. Do you have any parting words before I enjoy my surprise?"
Ron opened his mouth a couple times; he was desperate to have Dolohov lift the curse. If he could just talk to Hermione, then perhaps then he could be of some help to her.
"Ohhh, that dratted spell," Dolohov mumbled to himself as he observed Ron's struggle to talk. "I suppose I should lift it," and as he raised his wand to do so Dolohov continued in a louder voice.
"It has nasty effects on the voice if it is placed on a person for too long and I want to be able to hear you scream when I come back."
Dolohov turned and walked halfway out of the door before stopping again.
"I really should give your shoulders a break, shouldn't I? I don't want you to die just hanging there while I'm gone. No help to me if you are dead."
Dolohov raised his arm as he walked out in the lantern lit hallway but Ron could still hear his voice echoing against the stone above the slamming of his cell down.
"At least not yet."
Ron was grateful that he hadn't landed on his feet. Ignoring the bruising in his knees, Ron dragged himself across the floor to get to Hermione, who had returned to her fetal position.
Ron had to clear his throat a couple of times to banish the lingering effects of the spell, but he managed to call out to Hermione just as he reached her side of the cell.
"Hermione? Luv, please look at me. It is just us now."
Ron was gently stroking Hermione's shoulder now; it was taking all his self control not to fling himself onto her. He didn't know what kind of nightmares that bastard had now given Hermione and he was afraid to touch her more than the barest.
Suddenly Ron felt Hermione's hand on his, gripping it with all her strength.
Her voice quivered and Hermione tried again this time succeeding to sound confident and in control.
"Ron? Is that you? I was sure..." Hermione trailed off before demanding harshly, "Prove it to me."
Ron felt the black edges of his eyesight returning with full force, drifting dangerously against the front of his vision. He had a headache, he could barely move is shoulders, his chest burned and stung, and his feet felt as if they were on fire. He didn't know what Hermione was asking him.
Hermione had pulled her hand away from his and was sitting cross-legged in front of him. Her eyes were too swollen to open much and her face was not in much better shape but with her hands in her lap, Hermione looked tense and willing to face anything, even the disguise of her boyfriend.
"Prove to me that you really are Ron Weasley."
"Oh, Godric, 'Mione!" Ron stopped when he saw Hermione flinch at the sound of his nickname for her.
"Prove it to me."
"And what happens if I fail and I can't prove anything to you? If I'm an imposter?"
Ron was so tired. He couldn't believe he was having this conversation in the dudgeon of some sadistic Death Eaters. He knew shouldn't bait her but all of his temper seemed to mount and Ron couldn't stop his tongue.
"What do you expect, Hermione? That I'm some Death Eater who is trying to get close to you only to find the whereabouts of Harry or something? Or are you imagining some new kind of torture where you embrace your boyfriend and it turns out to be a trap? Are you thinking that they've killed me?"
Ron stopped the moment his rant left his lips. He heard his memory playing back his words and saw the possibilities in every one of his proposed situations. He looked up too see Hermione crying.
"Yes! I can't stop imagining you're dead!"
Ron felt waves of guilt settle upon his already existing pain. He reached out his arms to embrace Hermione, who stiffened under his cuddle. Ron didn't remove his arms and instead spoke quietly but with earnest sincerity.
"Hermione Jane Granger, believe me when I say that I am Ronald Bilius Weasley, the boy who has fancied you since making that dramatic discovery that 'you are a girl.' I am the Ron who had dirt on his nose on the first train to Hogwarts. The same Ron who is afraid of spiders because of his bloody brothers. I'm the Ron who has made you cry more times than anyone else put together. I've called you a nightmare and I thought your elf hats looked like wooly bladders. Please, believe me Hermione. I am your Ron"
Ron felt Hermione relax as he moved closer and soon they were nestled together in the corner of their cell, but he didn't stop talking.
"Listen to me when I tell you, I am the Ron Bilius Weasley who loves you with his whole heart but have never had the courage to say so before now. I love you, Hermione and I will never leave you. I love that streak of grey hair you have behind your ear. I love those freckles across your lower back. I love the way you bite your lower lip when you are thinking, and the way you laugh that you whole body shakes.
"You are Hermione Jane Granger, who is bossy and brilliant and compassionate for all those lost causes, like me. You are just, and righteous, and you know how to sweet talk any teacher. And I am Ron Bilius Weasley who....Ron who....I'm ..."
Ron tried to finish but suddenly he felt every pain in his body grow stronger and he just couldn't keep it up any more. He gave way and allowed himself to faint. He never heard Hermione's broken voice finish his sentence.
"You are Ron Weasley who is loyal, and kind and trustworthy. You are brilliant and completely unaware of it and I am Hermione Jane Granger who loves you but just has never had the courage to tell you until now."
Ron didn't know how long it was until he was awoken again. His eyes opened just in time to see Hermione being wrenched away from him, a tall brawny Death Eater grabbing her form behind, pinning her arms to her side. A moment later Ron, felt another set of arms wrap around his own chest.
"Hermione, I'm here. It's going to be okay."
Ron didn't know what made him say those words. He had no way of knowing if there was any truth in them, but Hermione seemed to take comfort from them.
The Death Eaters ignored the brief conversation and continued to drag Hermione and Ron out into the long corridor and then up a flight of steps that lead outside. Vaguely, Ron realized that this was an opportunity for Hermione and him to escape. But Death Eaters were big and Ron wasn't much taller than either one of them. He was considering the options of trying to break free when the Death Eater who was dragging him slipped a little. Ron felt his body sink and suddenly his broken feet were scraped along the uneven stone slabs.
Ron cried out in pain; he couldn't help himself. The Death Eater continued to ignore him and Ron briefly wondered if he was mute when his feet were hit again. The pain was worse than before and Ron passed out.
The first thing Ron saw when he opened his eyes was the gloating face of Dolohov mere inches away from his face. Ron jerked away instinctively but found that he only cracked the back of his skull on a large wooden beam.
Stars danced in front of his eyes as Ron suddenly realized that he was outside. He squinted his eyes at the sudden appearance of the sun from behind a cloud and only heard Dolohov's chuckle.
"Hello again, Weasel. I'm so happy you could join us. It is almost like a family reunion."
Dolohov turned away from Ron and pointed at figure just behind him. It was Ginny.
"She seemed to think that she might be able to rescue you and the Mudblood unassisted. See, that's the problem with blood-traitors," Dolohov had turned back to Ron and continued, "They always think they are smarted than actually are. What is Potter doing, Weasel? Is he sending your family to do his dirty work?"
Ron's brain wasn't making any sense of the situation. Harry would never have sent Ginny here, especially not alone; there would be no point. As far as Harry knew, Hermione and Ron were still free, trying to carry out Ron's plan.
Ginny must have followed them, Ron decided. She was insistent that she could something to help and in hopes of proving herself she had tried to assist Ron and Hermione. It had been her who had creating the first series of crashes Ron had heard in his cell. She had been trying to lure Dolohov away, but that hadn't worked and now she had been captured as well.
Ron raised his eyes to stare at his sister. She wasn't as bruised as Hermione, but Ron suddenly knew with blinding fury what Dolohov's prize had been. He remembered the guard describing it as 'fiery' and Ron struggled against the bonds he had not yet realized were attached to him. Taking a few calming breaths, Ron tried to observe his situation.
His arms were tied around a wooden pole behind his back. Similarly his ankles were tied around the post so that Ron wasn't standing on his own two feet, but rather kneeling on the ground.
Ginny was standing with her back to the large mansion that had been transformed into the Death Eaters' torture hall. Her limbs were free but an unmasked Lucius Malfoy gripped her arm with one hand and held his wand to her throat in the other.
There wasn't anything, it seemed, physically wrong with her, apart from bruised exterior. Her red hair was whipping around in the wind, her feet were spread apart so that her stance looked controlled and confident, and her hands were balled into fists.
Ron had seen her stand looking like that before but he had never been less familiar with her. Every little angle was off, the curves didn't all fit. To Ron she looked like a plastic model whose limbs had just been stuck together. Everything looked right on its own, but the whole piece wasn't fitted yet. Ginny looked separate from herself, as though she were lost in her own body.
Ron had just decided that was impossible and that his pain was shifting the way he looked at Ginny when Dolohov came back into his line of vision.
"Looking at my treat now, are we? I have something that might help with that."
Dolohov raised his hand and shook a small glass vial in front of Ron's face. A bright blood red liquid swished around. Suddenly, Ron couldn't tear his eyes away from the potion. He watched as wave after wave of thick red liquid splashed up against the glass and tumbled back down again.
"Fascinating isn't it?"
Ron's eye contact broke, and instead he chose to stare into Dolohov's face.
"I don't suppose you know what this is." Dolohov shook the little bottle again. "Destino Sight Potion - once I force this down your throat you will be unable to look away from your precious sister. No blinking, no shifting of gaze; you will remain entirely focused on her. Lucius was kind enough to modify it. Normally, the potion will keep your gaze on the first thing you look at, but this batch was altered and now it will only allow you to look at something that has red on it."
Dolohov reached up and yank a couple ginger hairs out of Ron's scalp and twisted them around his fingers as he continued.
'Fitting isn't it?"
Ron stole a terrified glance at Hermione, whose nose was being held by her Death Eater, her mouth forced open.
"Look now because in a couple of minutes neither of you will be able to look anyway but at young Miss Ginny."
Suddenly, Dolohov grabbed Ron's chin, forcing his mouth open. He pulled the vial's cork out with his teeth before shoving its entire contents down Ron's throat. Ron was too surprised to do anything but choke.
He felt the potion slip down to the pit of his stomach, where it burned and stung. Ron could feel tears welling up in eyes and splashing down his cheeks, and yet he couldn't blink them away. He eyes were completely focused on the way Ginny's hair kept flying into her face, and he could do nothing about it.
Dolohov turned and strode toward Ginny and Malfoy as Ron watched. He watched as together they stripped Ginny of all her clothing. He watched as Dolohov took out his wand as Malfoy stuffed his own wand in his pants before grabbing greedily a Ginny's breasts.
Ron did not look away as he saw Malfoy feel between Ginny's thighs as he smashed his lips to hers. Ron saw Malfoy unbuckled his belt and let his pants drop. Ron cried aloud because he could not tear his eyes away when he saw Malfoy thrust into Ginny, again and again
Ron wished that his tears would obstruct his view but they did nothing against the sight in front of him and he didn't miss the sudden change in Ginny's expression. Before now she had been blank, if not for the continued look of defiance in her flashing brown eyes, but now Ron was drawn to the look of surprise, then sadness that flickered quickly through Ginny's eyes.
Ron found himself catching Ginny's eyes as she truly looked at him for the first time since he had been watching her. She again looked like the Ginny he knew as she mouthed something to him, seemingly completely unaware of Malfoy and his caresses. A second later Ginny was moving.
She raised her knee and caught Malfoy right in the groin. Then, whipping around she grabbed at the wand in Dolohov's hand before he had time to react. Taking it in her right hand, Ron saw her shout, "Stupify."
As the burst of red light raced toward Dolohov, hitting him square in the chest, Ron heard another shout. This one was louder and lower than Ginny's had been.
And a green light sped out of Malfoy's wand this time and struck Ginny between her naked breasts. Suddenly there were shouts everywhere with spells flying overhead. Malfoy turned and ran from the field but Ron only has eyes for Ginny. He thought he heard Harry's voice over all the babble but he was too numb to realize what it meant.
He could not look away as he saw Ginny drop, her hair floating upwards. He saw the fire in her eyes die as she slumped on the ground. And Ron continued to stare at her as her hair fell across her face, after the noises has quieted, long after he felt his bonds cut loose. He felt somebody squeeze his shoulder and say his name. But it meant nothing to him. He heard Hermione weeping but he felt no pull to comfort her. It was as if him and Ginny were the only ones there.
Ron continued staring at Ginny even when a different more urgent voice shouted at him and shook him. Yet, his eyes didn't waver. And it was only until he saw a sober Kingsley Shacklebolt drape his cloak over her still form then Ron was allowed to blink and look away.
Ron decided that the peaceful Wizarding World was not much different than the one that was at war. True, he hadn't seen much of the world outside the Burrow for the past four months but from what he could tell nothing had changed. People still were scared, still ignorant, still troubled, still mourning. People were still getting sick, hurt, and old. They were still dying.
Maybe outside Ron's room, people were celebrating, but no one who came to see Ron seemed in the mood to rejoice, not that he ever presented an atmosphere where celebrating would be encouraged. These days, Ron rarely left his room, and he yelled and hexed anyone who came up to see him. He supposed it was his own bloody fault he felt so disconnected with the Wizarding World.
Of course that wasn't as bad as the distance he felt from his family. That problem truly was his own damn fault.
When he had been released from St. Mungo's, the Healers had provided him with two weeks worth of sleeping and dreamless potions. They had lasted him eight days. When his mother had found out, they had a fight that had only ended when she had fled from his room in tears. She had accused him of being out of control and addicted and Ron had responded by saying he needed to have two doses a day because he keep getting nightmares every time he saw her.
Now that Ron looked back on it, a month later, he felt sick with guilt, but his pride would not allow him to apologize. It wasn't as if what he had said was a lie; it just wasn't the best thing to say to his already mourning mother.
None of the other members of his family had forced their company on him since he had cursed Fred. Fred had come up to try and convince Ron to apologize to Mrs. Weasley but he startled Ron into hexing him.
Ron remembered the look of complete astonishment on Fred's face as he stared first at Ron then at the angry gash against his chest. Ron supposed it typical of him to give himself another trigger to his flash backs.
Fred might never speak to him again but at the moment Ron decided it was for the better. He couldn't look at his family; he could barely look at himself. Watching Ginny...die had been the worse experience in Ron's life, but every time he looked at a family member he felt the knife stab into his wound one more time.
Ron thought it was the red hair that triggered it. Though St. Mungo's had been able to counteract Dolohov's potion, Ron still was unable to turn his eyes away when he saw something red. It would release his carefully blocked memories and suddenly his brothers became Ginny; all of them crying out and falling on the ground, obviously dead.
He hadn't told anyone, though. They would spread their already thin sympathies on him and Ron didn't think he could stand it. Not only would he be unable to look at them but the very image of those pitying glances made Ron's cheeks burn in shame. What kind of person was he if he fell apart in front of his family, in front of himself.
When he first got home he walked into the room and had turned toward the small mirror on the back of the closet door. Suddenly his image had change and Ron felt himself trapped in the half reality where one part of him felt the floor beneath his bare feet and the feel of the scratchy jumper. The other part saw Ginny once again standing in the field, ignoring Malfoy's hand as he grabbed fistfuls of her red hair before thrusting himself into her.
That was the first flashback. Ron had been so surprised that he had almost fainted, swaying dangerously before collapsing on the bed. He sat there waiting for the images to leave him, for his breath to return and for the tears to stop flowing down his cheeks. When he could he had risen from the bed and smashed the mirror with one solid punch.
Now, six weeks later, Ron ran his fingers over his still raw fist, the beginnings of scars just starting to pucker up, white against his freckled knuckles. It was late, but Ron was still up.
Every night was the same. He would force himself to stay awake as long as possible before finally collapsing out of sheer exhaustion. Then the nightmares would start. Far longer than the flashbacks, it was the nightmares that always made Ron wake up dripping in cold sweat.
On some nights it would start with Dolohov laughing in his face, or other times Ron could once again feel the bones in his feet shattering, while other nights he heard Hermione's screams. But always it would lead up to watching the final moments of Ginny's life.
From the moment Malfoy and Dolohov had stripped her of her clothes, to Malfoy dropping his pants and continuing. Ron would start screaming as he watched over and over again Ginny look up at him once more mouthing to him. And over his own screams he saw Ginny attack and then always he heard the cold murderous voice of Malfoy. "Avada Kedavra," and Ginny would fall. Ron's final piercing scream would wake his conscious body up.
He had started silencing his room; he didn't want anyone to hear his screams. He was so ashamed; he didn't know what scared him more: having to live with his nightmares for the rest of his life or having someone else finding out about his problems. He had been forced through one day of torture and here he was broken.
Ron cried bitterly for the younger boy who had longed to become an Auror. He had thought himself brave and strong and at that time in his life able to face whatever the Death Eaters threw at him. And then in reality he hadn't even lasted one day.
Always before, Ron's confidence was supported on Hermione and Harry's belief in him and now he had no one. Harry was off dealing with the fall of Voldemort and Ginny's death in solitude, though Ron knew that Remus Lupin would sometimes look in on him.
And Hermione....Ron would rather been in the room with his entire family and face seven flashbacks than see Hermione. Hermione who was dealing with her own problems wouldn't want to have to deal with Ron's.
The Healers at St. Mungo's had said that the prolonged effect of Dolohov's potion had caused her blindness, but he knew who was to blame. It was his fault. It was his stupid idea, and it was he who had let her come along. And now she has to suffer the consequences.
She had moved back in with her parents, who are placed her in therapy. She had gone blind, for Godric's sake. Now she couldn't read, she couldn't walk without assistance, and she couldn't get dressed alone. Hermione, who never knew how beautiful she was, would never be able to see herself again and Ron wept for her.
A breeze came through Ron's open window and ruffled the net there as Ron groaned into his hands. He was so bloody tired but he couldn't sleep anymore tonight. He had had his few hours before the nightmares and now he would waste away in his room until exhaustion took him again.
Ginny's face appeared again behind his closed eyes mouthing her last words. After seeing them night after night, Ron had figured out what she had said. I'm sorry.
She had known. The moment that Ron had seen the look of surprise on her face she had known. She had seen Kingsley, Tonks, and Harry climb over the ridge behind Hermione and Ron. She had known that they were guards waiting for such an event and she had known that Harry would not have planned to expect waiting Death Eaters.
She had sacrificed herself. Her shouting had warned Harry of what to expect. Her death brought him time and Harry had been able to gather his defenses before rescuing Ron and Hermione. But by that time it was too late for Ginny.
Oh, Merlin, Ron sighed to himself not for the first time, Ginny, 'you're sorry'? I'm so sorry. Forgive me, it was all my fault.
When Remus had briefly visited, he had tried to convince Ron to forgive himself.
"You couldn't have known that you and Hermione would have been captured. You didn't know that Ginny was going to come after you. You are not to blame, Ron. It was the Death Eaters that killed your sister, not you. And your plan worked in the end. Voldemort is dead, Ron, and it all because you gave Harry a chance to face him alone. Believe, Ron, when I say that you have nothing to feel guilty about. I know how hard you family suffered from Ginny's death but, please, don't let her death stop you from living."
Ron hadn't believed him. Instead, he had asked about Hermione. Remus had swallowed deeply before he told Ron how well she was doing. How the therapy had been really good for her. How she had helped Harry so much with the aftermath of it all. How she was learning to read Braille and how Fred and George were charming her clothing to speak so that they might tell Hermione which color they were.
"Does she have any nightmares of...when...you know...." Ron trailed off but Remus knew what he was referring to.
"No, she has been really good about it. She seems completely recovered from the incident, almost normal."
Ron had smiled at Remus until he left and then he had retched in the garbage can in his room. He wanted Hermione to get on with her life. After all, that is why he was avoiding her; or at least that is what Ron told himself. He wanted her to have a normal life where she didn't have to deal with sickening, pitiful Ron Weasley, who was so childish that he suffered night after night with nightmares and flashbacks. She had obviously recovered from the incident; why should she be with Ron, who would only serve as a reminder? It was for her own good that she should move on. But why then did the thought of her without him make him sick to the stomach?
Ron flopped back onto his bed when suddenly he heard a quiet knock on the other side of his door. He knew who is was before she spoke; he could recognize her from a mile away, he could identify her laughter in a crowd. He knew the sound of her knock.
"Ron?" Hermione called through the wood.
"Go away," Ron mumbled in his hands; it was half-hearted, at best.
"I know you are probably asleep. I couldn't...I haven't been able to since...well you know. I just wanted to see...well," Hermione amended herself quickly before going on, her voice growing stronger and louder. "I wanted to talk to you. I know you have been avoiding me, Ron. You family keeps saying that it isn't a good idea to see you right now. When I come over, they say you're sleeping, or that you have gone over to St. Mungo's, or you're out."
Ron snorted. He hadn't been 'out' since before everything happened and he had canceled his last couple of meetings with the Healers at St. Mungo's. They were still worried about aftereffects from the Cruciatus Curse and Ron kept telling them not to bother.
"What have you done, Ron? Your mother bursts into tears everything I mention you. Fred and George leave the room every time I come in. They seem to be holding their tongues. Your father keeps telling me to go home. Charlie is the only who will talk to me about you, though he calls you a part.
They are frightened of you, Ron, and I allowed myself to believe them. I convinced myself that you just needed some time by yourself; then you would come around and come back to me."
Ron could hear the tears in Hermione's voice and felt his temper eat at him and he was too tired to deal with a guilt-ridden Hermione as well. He stood up and began shouting.
"They're frightened of me, Hermione? Maybe it is because I almost let my brother bleed to death. Or is it because I made my mother cry for three days? I saw my fucking sister die and you think I'll just come around. What do you have to say to that, Hermione? Fine, go on with your prefect life. Pretend that Ginny never meant anything to you. You want to know why I've avoided you? Because I can't look you in the eye and know that you can't see me. Bloody hell, Hermione, say something."
Ron wrenched the door open and bellowed in Hermione's bewildered face.
"Or are you deaf as well as blind?"
Hermione only stood shocked for a moment.
"Well, Ronald, I heard that. Can't you for once hold your temper? It's no wonder your family is avoiding; you've turned into a bully." Hermione voice was equal to what Ron's had; her own temper seeming to run uncheck.
"Prat," she spat toward him.
There were a few moments of ringing silence. Ron trying to look anyway but at Hermione and Hermione was clenching and unclenching the fabric of her shirt. Ron suddenly became very focused on the way Hermione was biting her lower lip when both them turned to the sound of footsteps pounding up the staircase. Rounding the corner, clutching at a stitch in his side, came Charlie. He stared at the pair before bending over and panting.
"What the fuck are two on about?"
"Charlie?" Hermione asked and Ron pulled her closer to him to make room on the tiny landing for Charlie who straightened again and was glancing back and forth. His eyes rested on the protective arm Ron had thrown around Hermione, to Ron's eyes, which were narrowed in angry, to Hermione's half opened mouth. Whether it was surprise from Ron's affection or by Charlie's sudden appearance, Charlie didn't know but he thought it was best to work on some normalcy to the situation.
"Yea, it's me, Hermione." Charlie rubbed his hand over his face and through his hair before moving toward Hermione, holding out his other hand.
Hermione moved forward, shaking off Ron's arm, and grasped Charlie around the wrist before gently cupping his face with her other hand; she laughed.
"You feel awful."
"Yea, well, some gits work me up at three in morning because they were shouting at each other."
Charlie grinned at Hermione, though he knew she couldn't appreciate it before turning to Ron, who looked murderous.
Hermione had told him, the first and last time she had visited since their capture, that because of her new condition she had changed some of the ways she interacted with people. Now, Hermione, who had always been affectionate and emotional, touched everyone she met. She said it made her feel connected with the world but Ron preferred to image her not connecting with anyone. He hated the way she could be so familiar with Charlie; if she was like that with Charlie, who else was she 'connecting' to? Ron shuddered and glared at his brother.
"Go back to bed, Charlie." Ron hissed through clenched teeth.
Charlie ignored him, still looking a Hermione. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to talk to Ron. I figured if he was always asleep during the day when I came, he must be awake at night." Hermione smirked ignoring Ron growl, "Charlie."
"Well, maybe visiting at three o'clock in the morning it's the smartest idea, Hermione. You scared the living shit out of me and mum's going to have a cow when she finds out you've been here without eating something."
Ron moved from the doorway and grabbed Charlie around the bicep and shook him a little. 'Get the fuck outta here, Charlie."
Charlie threw up his hands in surrender, knocking Ron's arm back down. "Alright I'm going. I just ran up a bloody flight of stairs to make sure you weren't dying. I've done my job so I'll go now."
Turning to Hermione, "It was nice seeing you, Hermione, but I wouldn't advise staying too long. Ron has been a right grouch."
Ron smacked Charlie across the head.
"Merlin, Ron, I'm going. And for what ever I interrupted," Charlie glanced meaningfully between Ron and Hermione, "I'm sorry."
Ron went rigid. The whites of his eyes widened, bright in the darkness of the landing. Twitching all over, he grasped wildly in the air before grabbing at the front of Hermione's shirt. Pulling her down with him, Ron fell to his knees.
"Ron? What's wrong with him, Charlie?" Hermione reached out and touched Ron's face; her fingers flinched back, surprised to be covered in the tears that were coursing down Ron's cheeks.
"Ron?" Hermione stoked his face again tying to get him to respond to her.
Charlie, who had been quiet up 'til now, starting a chant of obscenities, "Fuck, shit, shit, fucking fuck..." He ran his fingers, through his hair with frustration before suddenly turning toward Hermione, gripping her shoulder and speaking in a hurried rough voice.
"Look, Ron's been in right trouble since...the thingy. And he gets these flashbacks of when Ginny died. Typically it's been me and the guys who have set him off, so we've been keeping our distance. I don't think Fred and George really know what the problem but they know enough that Ron needs to be alone from us. Ron thinks he has scared us off so he doesn't know that we know. But really you can't keep something like this," Charlie gestured helplessly toward Ron who was still holding Hermione's shirt in vise-like grip.
"We're family, we were bound to notice. Idiot." Charlie said this last bit directed toward Ron before turning squeezing Hermione's shoulder one more time and started to head back down the stairs.
"Charlie, where are going?"
"I've got to get outta here or I'll just set him off again. There is nothing you can do. Just let the flashback run its course and when it's over you'll have Ron back. Though he'll probably be a git and yell at you and storm off. Don't take offense; Ron's just a bloody idiot."
With that Charlie trooped down the rest of the stairs, leaving Hermione with Ron. He shuddered and suddenly pulled himself together, throwing himself away from Hermione, panting as he leaned against the wall behind him.
"Ron?" Hermione reached out her hands but Ron slapped them away. He didn't answer her but he didn't tell her to bugger off, either, so Hermione stayed her ground.
"How long have you been having flashbacks?"
"I didn't mean to call you deaf." He voice was ragged and he was still panting.
It took a moment for Hermione to remember what Ron was talking about but then she remembered Ron bellowing at her about being blind and deaf.
"That's okay. Why didn't you tell anyone you were having problems?"
"I was yelling at you but you couldn't hear me. I silenced my bedroom at night." Ron looked up at Hermione, who was rubbing her eyes as though her blindness was only related to the darkness of the landing.
"Do they hurt?" Ron asked in quiet voice as he shuffled forward. He took both of Hermione's hands in one of his and with the other he gently stroked across his eyelids.
"No, they just..." Hermione trailed off as Ron began to stroke the back of her hand with his thumb. "Why do you silence your door at night, Ron?"
He shrugged though he knew she couldn't see him. "I get nightmares, too. Screaming nightmares," he clarified. "I don't want anyone to wake up."
"You don't want anyone to know you have a problem."
"If you had just said something Ron... I would've helped you....But you ran away from me."
"Why did you come here tonight, Hermione?"
"I couldn't sleep."
"How could've I help? I haven't slept in ages. I get nightmares, remember?" Ron tried to sound flippant, as though admitting to his nightmares was easy. But even as he said it he felt his shoulder's tense and his hand clenched around Hermione's own. She noticed but she decided not to comment on his uneasiness, instead she answered his question.
"I miss sleeping next to you." Hermione blushed. She and Ron hadn't done anything but sleep, but during the Horcrux hunt she and Ron would set up their sleeping bags next to each other. Then only once they were wrapped in each other's arms did they feel safe enough to go to sleep.
"I wouldn't be any comfort now." Ron was also blushing. Hermione reached up and stroked his face, he shivered but didn't pull away.
"You're blushing," she almost giggled.
"So are you." Ron mumbled back to her only growing redder.
Hermione sat up straighter, growing serious. "I don't want you to pull away, again, Ron. I want to sleep in your arms, even if you do have nightmares; there is nothing to be ashamed of."
Ron stood up. He was so sudden that Hermione who had been leaning forward toward him, started to fall face first toward the ground. Ron caught her around the shoulder so she didn't hit the floor boards but he didn't help her up either. Instead he paced the three small steps of the landing, looking like some sort of caged animal.
"Hermione, you shouldn't tie yourself to riffraff like me."
"Riffraff? That is what Dolohov told you. Don't tell me you believed him."
"Look, Hermione, Lupin's told me about you. About how you are doing really well. You are learning Braille and you don't even need to go to therapy anymore. You never even had nightmares.
You shouldn't hang around me, I'll only bring you down. You have so much future, Hermione, it would ruin your life if you associated yourself with me, some bloke who still gets flashbacks."
Hermione stood up. She didn't know what made her made her feel worse: realizing that Ron thought so little of himself or that he thought she was so capricious as to drop him without any reason. She wanted to yell and shout at him but instead she stood up, albeit shakily and spoke in hissing quiet voice than nevertheless conveyed her emotion.
"I want to call you an idiot so badly, but then you will only hear that and not listen to want else I have to say so I will save that to the end.
Ron Weasley you are one of the most amazing people I know. Even if you cannot judge your own character, trust in my reasoning that I would never be with someone who wasn't worth my time. You are not 'just some bloke,' Ron. You are my rock, my friend, my beloved, my companion and I will not have you berate yourself. I love you, Ron. I told you that in Dolohov's dudgeon but now I will say it so you can hear me. I love you."
She reached blindly out and Ron struck dumb with her announcement stopped pacing and took her hands.
"You want to know why I don't have nightmares, Ron? I not really as strong as you think, I am. I don't remember seeing things in Dolohov's dudgeon because I was blind the entire time. I didn't correct the Healer's at St. Mungo's because I didn't see the point but it wasn't the potion that took my sight. It was when Dolohov first came to me."
Hermione stopped for a moment as she heard Ron's clench his teeth and draw a ragged breath but he didn't interrupt so she continued.
"When Dolohov first came to me, I fought him. But he was stronger than me and as he pinned me to the ground." Hermione's voice broke for the first them since she had started talking and Ron, concerned wiped a tear away from her face.
"You don't have to go on, Hermione. I believe you."
"No, you don't," her voice shook but she continued. "I have to prove to you that I'm no stronger than you. He pinned me and I cried out for you. He got irritated and slammed my head onto the ground until I shut up. But by that time, he had broken blood vessels. The arteries to my eyes clotted; I went blind."
Hermione clenched her eyes as Ron tried to digest what she had just told him.
"I was blind when they took me into you room. I could only hear you scream. And when you came to me, I couldn't believe it was you because I couldn't see and make sure. Dolohov's potion could do nothing to me so I never saw Ginny, Ron. I never saw what Dolohov forced you and her through. I can't imagine what it must be like for you to see her die over and over again."
Ron was weeping and Hermione knew that he believed her. That he might slip and berate himself but he had to know how much strength she saw in him.
"I would have died in the dudgeon if it hadn't been for you. You were my anchor to the outside world and because I believed in you, you led me out of the darkness. And Ron,"
Hermione reached up and pulled Ron's face close to her so that he wouldn't miss a single word she said.
"I know you are not weak. You are not to be ashamed of yourself. I could never leave you and 'have a normal life.' Because Ron, I know you and I'm never wrong."
Ron chuckled watery before he threw himself into Hermione's arms, his face muffled in her hair.
"Hermione, the know-it-all."
"Ron," Hermione was serious again. "I know you will still have nightmares and I know that I cannot heal the wounds Dolohov gave you but next time you see red, look only at me. Let me be your anchor through the dark because even blind I have seen the way toward the light."
"So are going to call me an idiot, now?" Ron's voice came from the depths of Hermione's hair.
And they clung to each other; convinced not of the horrors they had seen, or of the future they had envision but of the reality in the present and of each other.
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