Characters: Ron and Harry (implied H/G & R/Hr)
Warnings: Action, Angst, Strong Language
Length: 7308 words
Summary: Ron always knew Harry could die in battle, but he never expected to lose him like this.
Author notes: I’d like to thank mrsquizzical and fitzette who encouraged me, and snogs to queenb23more and grownuphermione for their huge contributions and beta work.
“James Potter was born to parents who died from a wizarding illness. [He] inherited plenty of money” – JKR.
Of Blood and Dust and Potatoes
. : .
“How many, you reckon?” Harry asked quietly.
Ron peered through a break in the hedgerow at the Potter family tomb on the outskirts of Ulverston Cemetery.
“I see two. And you know there’s sure to be at least one more inside.”
Fog had settled in early tonight, making their hair and clothes damp and clinging to their skin.
“Hermione figured it right,” Harry said with a sigh and sat on the soggy foliage. “Death Eaters wouldn’t be guarding this place if it wasn’t in there.”
“Course she was,” Ron said with a smile of pride, but it quickly faded away. “Hope she’s doing okay.”
They exchanged a mutual concerned look about her but remained silent.
Hermione had been injured a week earlier when she had destroyed the Slytherin Horcrux. The force of the implosion had caught her off guard, and the effect left her magic too unstable for her to safely Apparate.
“I’m fucking tired of waiting,” Ron grumbled. “I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m wet, I stink – you stink,” he added with an elbow jab to Harry.
Harry’s frown gave way to a grin.
“I know,” he acknowledged. He looked over his shoulder at the Death Eaters still gathered outside the tomb and then back at Ron. “You could go back if you want. You don’t have t-”
“Shut it, Harry.”
They waited in silence several more minutes.
“You know what I’m thinking?” he said, while Harry Imperviused the fog off of his glasses. “I’m thinking that they know that we know, that they know, that we know that Riddle put the Gryffindor Horcrux in your Granddad’s tomb. They’re not gonna leave. It’s just a bad strategy. We need to make the first move. So let’s make it, Harry.”
“Make it?” Harry blinked.
“Just attack. Be done with it.”
Harry looked incredulous.
“Are you mad? Just me and you? Attack, what?” He looked over his shoulder again. “Three Death Eaters?”
“Yeah. Actually, I was thinking more like I’ll draw their attention, you attack them.”
“What? No way!”
“You’ll get killed!”
“Will not. You’ve got my back, yeah?”
“Of course, but that’s not the point. We- ”
“’kay then. See ya, mate!”
Ron readied his wand, smiled at Harry, and Disapparated.
With a crack, he Apparated right in front of the Death Eater guards.
“Wotcher, fellas,” he said brightly and then Disapparated just as jets of green blasted through the air where he had stood.
Crack. Ron appeared behind them, thirty feet away.
“Oy – yeh so ugly you have to wear masks?” Ron taunted, Disapparating again.
He reappeared forty-five degrees from where he’d been before.
“Or are ya just cowards?”
Ron vanished again. He was beginning to feel a pang of nausea, but he gripped his wand tighter and concentrated on his next location.
When the misty graveyard materialized in front of him again, Harry was already standing over the two Death Eaters, both lying on the ground and stunned.
“Excellent,” he said as he approached, slightly breathless. “That was quick.”
Harry turned on him and punched him in the shoulder.
“You prick! I had to be quick, didn’t I? You had to have been getting sick pulling that disappearing act.”
Ron swallowed hard and gritted his teeth. He didn’t appreciate being scolded when his plan had clearly worked out as he’d intended, but there was no time to argue. The heavy iron door of the Potter crypt began to open.
Aiming their wands at the door, they both cast hexes at the person inside, knocking the masked man back into the tomb.
“Now!” Harry shouted, and they barreled through the doorway while the path was still clear. They saw the tail end of robes sweep behind a short wall at the far end of the room. Harry blocked a curse that came in their direction, as Ron cast another.
“You know what we want!” Harry shouted at the hiding Death Eater. “We’ll let you go if you hand it over.”
“I have my orders, Potter,” returned a young, hate-filled voice. “I’ll die before I let you take my Lord’s treasure.”
“That won’t be a problem, mate. Your choice,” Harry sneered.
Ron felt a pang of remorse knowing how deadly serious Harry was. He’d become flippant about their enemy’s lives. Not that he begrudged Harry. It wasn’t his fault.
A barrage of hexes and curses began bouncing off the walls of the small space. It seemed Voldemort trusted this Death Eater for his zealous dedication. He was fighting in panicked frenzy as though he expected to die, as though he wanted it.
Ron saw the green flash of a curse ricochet off the ceiling towards Harry. He reached out and blocked, shielding Harry, but in that instant he felt his breath get knocked out of him, and everything went dark.
When Ron opened his eyes, the sound of crumbling debris was the first thing he heard. The power of the spell was lifted which he assumed meant that the Death Eater was dead.
“Harry!” he shouted as stood. The room swam before him slightly from where his head hit the floor when he fell.
A vague groan of, “here,” on the other side of the room indicated where Harry was. Ron recognized the blast pattern in the room as that of a Horcrux imploding.
“You destroyed it?” Ron yelled at Harry, as he pulled him out of the crumbled catacomb he’d fallen back into.
Harry was covered in dry decay and dust, the mummified remains of some long dead Potter relative hanging around him.
“I figured I’d quit wasting time fighting him and just destroy the thing since he was holding it. I did cover you with a shielding charm first.” Harry began coughing as he breathed in the powdered rot he was covered with.
“Well thanks for that. This is disgusting,” Ron said, tossing aside a cloth-wrapped bone and brushing layers of gray dust off Harry’s robes. “You’re covered in ancient dead bloke.”
“s okay,” Harry choked between wracking coughs. “It’s just family.”
He managed a slight smile before another coughing fit took him over.
“You’re demented,” Ron chuckled. “Come on, let’s get you some fresh air. You really inhaled a lot of this bloke.”
Harry continued coughing as they went outside. He stopped and held his fist to his chest, trying to catch his breath between outbursts.
“Shit, you’re really choking,” Ron said, growing concerned. “I’m going clean this stuff off of you.” He raised his wand and spelled away the layer of debris covering Harry. Then he pulled out a small silver flask. “Here, it’s all I’ve got to drink. It was supposed to be for a celebratory toast, but it’ll do for choking.”
Harry took a swig and winced, clearing his throat loudly.
Ron tilted his head, looking at him in the moonlight. Harry had light circles under his eyes that he hadn’t noticed before.
“You look like shite, Harry. Feeling okay?”
“Yeah, all right.” Ron watched Harry clear his throat a few times.
They waited a few minutes for Harry to catch his breath and then Apparated into the shadows of the street outside Grimmauld Place.
“Food, bath, bed; here we come,” Ron said playfully and began crossing the road with a bounce in his step. He realized that Harry wasn’t by his side, and he turned around.
Harry was still standing where he had Apparated and was bent over with his hands on his knees, looking at the ground.
“Hey, what’s up with you?” Ron asked, walking back to him. Harry didn’t answer, just shook his head slightly.
Ron stooped over and put his hand on his shoulder.
Harry took a breath and stood slowly.
“Sorry. I just got a little dizzy. I’m fine.” He made a tiny smile that was far from genuine.
Ron nodded but had to bite his lip from expressing his surprise at Harry’s appearance. He was paler than he’d been only minutes earlier in the cemetery.
“Well, I guess it’s been a lively night. You’re excused,” Ron said warily, and they began walking.
Number Twelve was shifting into view in front of them, and as they walked up the front path, Harry stumbled.
“Whoa,” Ron grunted and caught him roughly around the chest and shoulder, keeping him from falling flat on his face.
“Shit,” Harry hissed, looking at Ron with wide eyes. “I dunno what happened there.”
“Me neither, but I don’t like it,” Ron said, standing upright and supporting Harry around the back and under his arms. “Let’s get inside. Are you sure you didn’t get hit with a hex?”
But Harry didn’t answer. They took another step, and Harry crumpled completely, his eyes rolling back.
“What the fuck?” Ron took a deep breath and picked Harry up, quickly ascending the steps with him and entering the front door.
“Professor Lupin! Remus, you here?” Ron shouted, sparing a brain cell to be thankful Sirius’ bitch of mother no longer inhabited the entryway.
“I’m here – Merlin, what happened?” Remus appeared from the kitchen. “Same thing as Hermione? Did you get the Horcrux? Where were you?”
“No – yeah – bugger – hang on. Let me put him down first.” Ron pushed his way past Remus into the kitchen and laid Harry down on the table. He took a breath before beginning.
“Yes. He destroyed the Horcrux and three Death Eaters with it. I didn’t do anything.”
“Damn it, Ron. This is exactly why we don’t like you going off alone!”
“I’m sorry! It’s Harry’s call, you know that.”
Remus nodded with pursed lips. The Order was rather put off that Harry, Ron, and Hermione kept their Horcrux research to themselves.
“And he wasn’t alone. I was with him, and he was fine. I kept him safe, Remus. I got him home, and he only just now blacked out.”
Ron had learned to suffer a lot of indignity, but he couldn’t tolerate an accusation that he’d let Harry down. Even if a bit of insecurity was settling in, seeing as how Harry was lying unconscious at the moment.
“Tell me what happened, Ron.” Remus implored in his placating voice as he began examining Harry.
“Hermione figured that based on the other ‘hallowed’ locations Riddle used to hide the Horcruxes, he might have thought it funny to hide the last one in the Potter family mausoleum. He had already heard the prophecy about Harry by then. She was right about the bastard, too, ‘cause it was there.”
“Clever girl.” Remus acknowledged. “Go on.”
“Not much else. We fought a few Death Eaters, and I got stunned.” Ron flushed admitting this. “Harry shattered the Horcrux, and he got slammed into the catacombs and covered in ancient Potter dust- ”
“Oh God!” Tonks exclaimed as she entered the room. “What happened?”
Her dressing gown barely met in the middle to cover her pregnant belly.
“Ron, did you just say he was covered in ancient ‘Potter dust’?” Remus asked.
“Yeah. You know, a decomposed body and stuff. And Harry caught a lung full and choked on it.”
“Tonks, get out of here!” Remus said suddenly.
Ron was baffled by his outburst.
“What? Why? What are y- ” she began.
“I said get out!” he yelled at her. Leaving Harry’s side, he pushed her backwards out the kitchen door. “I want you to Scourgify yourself. Then go get Arthur, immediately.”
“But I don’t understand, Re-”
“Nymphadora, please,” Remus begged with a calm sounding panic, which silenced her protests. “Do as I ask, love, and hurry.”
Ron didn’t know what to make of his former Professor’s behavior, but it wasn’t comforting.
“Ron,” Remus said, turning back to him. “Oh hell, Ron, I wish you lot would have let us know where you were going.” He looked at Harry closely, turning his face from side to side. He pushed up his sleeves to examine Harry’s arms, and Ron gasped not only at how pale he was, but also at the tiny red dots that speckled Harry’s in the curve of his elbows and on his wrists.
Remus let out a slight anguished gasp and hunkered over Harry’s chest for moment.
“I don’t understand,” Ron asked, now deeply concerned. “Tell me what’s wrong with him.”
He moved closer to Harry, an effort to subconsciously protect him from whatever Remus might say.
“How are you feeling, Ron? Dizzy? Weak?” He took Ron’s face into his hands, looking at his eyes, and brazenly pushing his sleeves up to look at his arms.
“I’m fine! Harry’s the one who-”
“Listen to me,” Remus interrupted, with a desperate look in his eye. “Have you ever been told how Harry’s grandparents died? James’ parents?”
Ron shook his head.
“They contracted Malusemia. Do you know of it?”
“Yeah,” he nodded, remembering a reference from History of Magic class. “It’s,” he glanced at Harry’s body sprawled on the table, “it’s deadly.”
“Yes. It’s a contagious and fatal disease that only affects the magical molecular structure of the blood. Potters going back generations have died from it. Their blood seems particularly susceptible to it.”
“No,” Ron said slowly, unwilling to accept this. “Hang on . . . You think Harry got it from – from his dead ancestors who died from the disease?”
“That’s the sum of it, I’m afraid.”
“But, he can’t. It’s just – no. He can’t have . . .” Ron mind was swirling with fear.
He had done his job, he’d kept Harry alive, and he’d even taken a hex to keep him safe.
“Remus?” Arthur’s voice called out from the hall.
“Here!” Remus yelled, rushing to the door and prohibiting his entrance. “Hang on, Arthur, listen I’m sorry, but it’s Malusemia...”
There was a moment of silence before his dad answered in an even voice.
“I’m immune, Remus. You can let me in.”
Ron felt a trickle of relief run through him when he saw his dad, only the way he looked at him wasn’t reassuring at all. His dad remained at the other end of the kitchen, and his eyes were dark marked with worry.
“Oh Godric, no,” he whispered upon seeing Harry. “What happened?”
Ron stammered for a moment before Remus stepped in, took over, and re-told the story for him. He sat next to Harry and hesitantly touched his arm. His pale skin didn’t look natural.
He’s just tired, Ron thought.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” he said when Remus had finished. He didn’t feel anything like the young man who’d just fought Death Eaters, but very much like a boy who’d done something wrong.
“I know, son. Now you, Bill and Percy have got the same immunity I have. Weasleys have almost always been immune, but the Prewett line is susceptible.”
Ron boggled with many questions, but he settled for the one he always asked.
“How do I help Harry?”
“He’s got to be quarantined, Ron,” Remus said.
“Yes,” his father agreed. “There hasn’t been a Malusemia outbreak in years. We can’t risk anyone catching it.”
“We’ve got several safe houses. Take Harry and look after him,” Remus said, removing a few rucksacks from a closet.
“Keep to yourselves. There’s some food in these bags,” Arthur added.
“Wait a minute,” Ron protested. “Shouldn’t we take Harry to St. Mungo’s if he’s sick.”
“We couldn’t keep him safe there.” Remus and Arthur looked gravely at each other. “And Harry’s best chance might be his mother’s Muggle blood. There’s nothing a Healer can do for him.”
“But,” Ron turned to his father. “I can’t do this, Dad. I don’t - I can’t - I’m not enough.”
“You’ve always been enough for Harry, son.” He laid a heavy hand on Ron’s shoulder. “It will only be for a day or so.”
Remus laded Ron with a few heavy bags and then propped Harry up so that Ron could put a supportive arm under him.
“We’ve nicked a few Portkeys from the Ministry, so you hold onto Harry tightly, and you’ll be off.”
“Bloody hell – wait,” he said, even as he pulled Harry more upright against his chest. “What do I do to make him better?”
“Oh, son, don’t you understand?” his father said as Remus placed the Portkey in his hand. “There is nothing to be done for Harry now. Just keep him comfortable until it’s over.”
Remus looked stern and wounded as he spoke, “Portus,” and Ron felt the world fell away beneath him.
. : .
The night here was black as pitch, and there was a drizzling rain falling on the windows. Their ‘safe house’ appeared to be an old, one-room seaside cottage by the briny smell of sea salt in air.
By force of habit, Ron set protective spells around the cottage before he cast a Lumos. Harry mumbled something, and he felt the tension in Harry’s body as he came to.
“Ron? Where’re we?”
“No worries, partner,” he answered, dropping their gear and heaving Harry onto a couch. “We’re safe here.”
“Wha’s wrong wi’ me?” Harry asked, sounding still half a sleep and very small.
“You’re just a little sick is all,” Ron answered, avoiding Harry’s eyes as he propped a pillow behind his head.
“Yeah. I feel it.”
Harry was still blinking heavily and seemed to have to concentrate on making his arms move.
“Belongs to the Order,” Ron said, as he knelt on the floor and began untying Harry’s boots. Ron could feel Harry’s eyes boring into him, but he hadn’t wrapped his brain around what was happening yet, let alone well enough to explain it to Harry. “We’re gonna stay here for a little while.”
He removed Harry’s boots one by one, then his robe, glasses, and sweater as though he were undressing a doll.
“Ohh, shit,” Harry cursed at seeing his bare arms now in his t-shirt. They were sickly white and tiny red petechiae dotted his skin. “This … isn’t normal.”
Ron avoided looking at his arms.
“Why aren’t you looking at me? … Ron?” Harry reached to grab the hem of Ron’s robe as he passed, but it fell from his weak grasp.
“Don’t ignore me. I trust you to be straight with me when nobody else will.”
Ron stopped in his tracks, feeling like an arse for having the nerve to feel badly when Harry was the one dying.
But he didn’t have the strength for this talk yet.
“You need some rest, Harry. Just kip here for a bit.”
He managed to force a smile long enough to glance at Harry.
“I’m just going to scout outside. Be right back.”
He went out into the rain and made it two-thirds around the cottage before he doubled over and threw up. Placing his hands on the wall for support, he coughed and spat out everything that had curdled inside of him since hearing Remus’ words. Since his dad looked him in the eye and for the first time in his life didn’t have anything comforting to say.
Once back inside, still shaking and dazed, he was relieved to see that Harry had fallen asleep again. He started a fire in the stove, kicked off his own boots, and pulled up a chair next to Harry.
. : .
It was the pain that crept into his subconscious as he slept that woke him. The ache in his neck as his chin rested against his chest and the pins and needles numbness in his arse screamed at him to move.
When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was Harry watching him. His eyes were large and round behind his glasses, and he looked small.
“Hey there,” Harry said, quietly.
“Hey,” he grunted and a groan formed in the back of his throat, but he silenced it when he looked at Harry, thinking he didn’t have much right to complain. “I guess you’d like to know what’s going on, huh?”
Harry nodded seriously and visibly shivered under his blanket.
“Still cold?” Ron asked the obvious, and he gathered their robes to cover him. “Want some tea?” He offered suddenly, moving to stoke the fire. “I bet there’s some in our kit bags.”
Ron took a deep breath and sat back down. He recounted everything that happened the night before, occasionally looking up to check Harry’s reaction.
Harry just listened and gave only the occasional frown. He was quiet for several minutes before speaking.
“If I didn’t feel so bloody lousy, I wouldn’t believe you. But… So, sometime today? Tonight? It’ll just be over?”
Ron opened his mouth and struggled for something to say. He wondered if this was one of those things that Muggleborns have a difficult time accepting. Ron had heard the stories about people suddenly dying of Malusemia all his life. The illness didn’t particularly care about youth or reputation.
“But I still have a job to do. We got all the Horcruxes, now its time to get him.” Harry looked a bit dazed and seemed to be looking to Ron for an explanation, and he simply didn’t have one. “But this is the only thing my pathetic life’s been meant for. I got my parents killed and ruined their friend’s lives-”
“You didn’t do that!”
“-I lived with the Dursleys who hated me. People tried to kill me at school.” Harry’s voice rose as he sat forward. Ron could see he was on the verge of becoming unhinged. “And the one and only thing I have to do to make amends to the universe for ever being fucking born I can’t do now because of a disease that my own dead relatives gave me?”
“You’ve got more worth than that,” Ron said, bracing himself for one of Harry’s rages, but instead, Harry exhaled and sunk back into the pillow heavily as if the enormity of it all literally weighed him down.
“And I don’t even get to say goodbye?” Harry whispered.
Ron slowly shook his head.
“’m sorry. I reckon it’s too dangerous to risk it.”
“But wait. Hermione - I have to see her at least. And Gin - I have to tell her-”
“We can’t, Harry,” Ron interrupted softly. “They’d probably get sick.” He felt horrible for being the one to deny Harry.
Harry seemed to flounder for a moment and then shook his head.
“It’s too much,” he said, squinting his eyes and grinding the heel of his palm over his forehead. Then he turned away with his back to Ron.
This was the Harry that Ron knew. He needed to be alone when he had to process something.
Leaving Harry to himself, he set water to boil and went about sorting through the bags they had.
After kettle whistled and he poured a pot of tea, he heard a quiet catch of breath across the room.
The unmistakable sound of Harry crying gave him a stomach-full-of-slugs feeling. He set the kettle down quietly, wishing he could be invisible. The only time he’d ever seen Harry shed a tear was when he was fourteen and had just been traumatized. They never spoke of it then, both being so young at the time.
Only Ron didn’t feel any older or wiser right now.
He gripped the handle of his wand, wishing for some way to call for Hermione or anyone who could help, but of course that was impossible. But he wouldn’t let Harry feel alone. So instead of pulling up the straight-backed chair again, he kneeled on the floor next to his friend. Hesitating for a moment, he rubbed his face a few times before he reached out and placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder.
Harry froze for a moment, trying to hold his breath and swallow a sob. He tried to shake Ron’s hand off his shoulder, but Ron’s grip only tightened, and a stubborn hiccough betrayed Harry’s effort and more tears escaped after it. Finally he reached his hand up and grasped onto Ron’s wrist.
“It’s …” Ron began to say lamely. Well it really wasn’t ‘okay’ at all, so he settled for what he could. “I’m here, mate. You’re not alone.”
He said nothing else, letting Harry shed his tears of regret and acceptance until exhaustion claimed him again, and he fell asleep.
. : .
It was another couple of hours later when Harry stirred again. Ron was sitting at a table not far away where he could check for Harry’s breathing movement. He was peeling potatoes by hand, remembering a time he swore he’d never peel a potato without magic again, but right now the busy work was welcome.
“Guess I fell asleep,” Harry said a bit sheepishly as he sat up, rubbing his face.
“Yeah.” Ron gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile. His throat tightened at seeing how sickly Harry looked, but he figured he at least owned him the courtesy of not looking away.
“What time is it?” Harry asked. “Wait, never mind, I don’t want to know.” He shook his head slightly. “Do me a favor, Ron? Don’t let me take any more naps, okay?”
“Erm, sure, I can do that,” Ron didn’t want to think too much on the meaning of that. “I’m just starting dinner. You hungry?”
Harry shook his head, but he made a small smile that barely showed in his eyes. He watched Ron for a few minutes before speaking again.
“Remember that summer when we had to peel potatoes for every dinner?”
“I was just thinking about that actually.”
“Mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes-”
“For your whole family and Hermione half the Order.”
“Yeah. Fred and George could have helped too, the gits.”
Their uneasy attempt at reminiscing gave way to nervous chuckles, which quickly died away.
“All right,” Harry said presently. “I have to take a leak.”
He sat up, pushed his blankets off, and immediately shivered, hugging himself. He tried to push himself to stand but quickly sat again.
Ron furrowed his brow and feigned concentration on the potato in his hand while he watched Harry out of the corner of his eye. Harry slumped slightly and pounded his fist on the arm of the couch before he spoke through gritted teeth.
“Looks like I could use some help before I go and piss myself here.”
“Sure,” Ron said, moving around the table, noticing Harry’s self-loathing expression. “It’s really not a problem.”
He used a warming charm on Harry, pulled his arm around his shoulder, and stood. Then he helped Harry walk, mostly carried him, to the small loo.
“You held a bowl for me while I upchucked slugs once, remember.”
Harry snorted. He managed his trousers well enough and leaned against the wall while he peed, and Ron looked out the tiny window. They both tried to ignore the sound and the acrid smell in the air.
After Ron settled and covered him with blankets again, Harry spoke.
“I remember reading about Malusemia,” he said presently. “Even if you’re immune, you can still carry it, and there are risks.”
“Yeah, I remember something like that,” Ron shrugged. “I’m not worried about it.”
“You’re never worried about yourself when you should be.”
“I’m fine, Harry. You shouldn’t be worried about me.”
“But I am. Do you know what the risks are? Blindness, permanent vertigo, sterility.”
Ron pulled a face.
“What do I care about that? I don’t want kids.”
“Well no, not now, cause you’re a giant git, but you might, someday. And Hermione will kill me – course I’ll already be dead – but all the same, she’ll kill me.”
“Why would Hermione care?”
“Don’t be dense, Ron. You know she wants to have your babies.”
“What? Why do say that?”
Harry rolled his eyes.
“Maybe because she loves you? Idiot.”
The most Ron had thought about kids with Hermione was to ask if she was taking contraception potion before they started having sex.
“Do you reckon that she’d still want to be with me if I was, you know, sterile?” A mild anxiety went through him. “I hadn’t really thought much about what we’d do in the future. But I never figured we’d fall out either.”
He picked up a carrot and began scraping it roughly.
“Of course she’d still want to be with you. She’s mad about you, Ron.”
He smiled, wishing more than anything that she was here. He wanted to wrap his arms around that body that felt so small in his arms but gave him so much strength. She made him braver than he really was.
“So,” Harry asked slowly. “You do want to have kids?”
A muscle in Ron’s jaw twitched, and he felt a flush creep up the back of his neck.
“Now that I think on it … yeah, reckon so,” he answered with a smile, looking down at his vegetables.
Harry smiled proudly.
“Yeah, I’ve always thought so too.”
Ron cleared his throat nervously. This conversation had become decidedly too sappy and serious.
“You know, virginity prevents that from happening,” Ron teased.
Harry eyebrows shot up, but his eyes dropped guiltily. Ron knew by the way he pursed his lips that he’d be blushing if he were healthier.
“’m not, you know.” Harry chanced a quick look up at Ron and then back down to his fingers.
Harry huffed. “Oh come, Ron. It’s not really a big deal.”
“Not a big deal?” Ron challenged.
“Well as far you are concerned, I mean,” Harry answered.
“What’s that supposed to mean? We’re talking about my sister, aren’t we?”
“Well, yeah, who else?”
“You’re not even with Ginny. I know you’re not. So when has this happened? When does this happen?”
“Ron,” Harry sighed, and Ron could see his toes curl under the blankets. “We just, well there’s not much point in being a couple right now with everything going on, but whenever we can, we just, erm, ‘connect’.”
Ron flourished his carrot angrily making a ‘psh!’ sound.
“Connect. Nice. Sounds to me like the two of you are just fucking.”
Harry’s head jerked upright, and for a brief moment, he had fight in his eyes again.
“You know me. You know the situation. We’d be together properly if we could.” Harry’s head dropped back onto the pillow; he looked defeated.
Ron didn’t understand his own anger. But he knew he couldn’t look Harry in the face right now, so he got up and went to the sink to tidy up and stared out the window.
Was Harry being with Ginny really so different than the few times he’d been with Hermione?
Yes, he thought stubbornly. He was with Hermione. Maybe it was complicated between them, and maybe they didn’t have a defined relationship, but in their own way they had an understanding.
But as far as he could tell, Harry and Ginny had been split up, and if they were shagging then it wasn’t out of romance, it was just sex.
… But was that really so wrong? He felt the pressures of the life they were living; the ever-present fear of death, the worry that the last time you see someone will be the last time. So if Harry and Ginny found that comfort in each other’s company, with each other’s bodies, well, he could hardly deny them that.
“Honestly,” he finally said, his temper ebbing. “I really like the idea. I want you and Gin to be together. I hated that you ever split.” There was also the fact that he was standing here waiting for Harry to die, and this was going to break his sister’s heart as well as his own.
“Sorry,” Ron muttered as he turned and guided the chopped vegetables into a caldron. “It’s just not fair.”
“Ha, yeah. Story of my life, that.”
They were quiet for a bit while Ron put the soup over the fire, although Ron continued to check on Harry if he was silent for more than a minute.
“Another storm is rolling in,” Ron said idly, looking out the window.
“I’m sorry I never told you about Ginny.”
Ron waved the comment off with a nod.
“No, really, I am sorry. I wanted to tell you. It’s weird having a best friend who I tell everything to and yet, when it came to something that significant, I couldn’t tell you.”
“Yeah, guess it is kinda weird. Nothing is ever easy for us though, is it?”
“And I never told you about Hermione either, but it wasn’t to keep it from you. It was just private.”
“I get it, really,” Harry said.
“You do? You’re not sore cause I was keeping a secret from you?”
“Nah,” Harry shook his head earnestly and grinned. “Besides, Hermione told me everything.”
“What?” Ron gasped.
Harry grinned. He always loved getting that reaction from Ron.
“Okay, so she didn’t tell me everything. But still, who else has she got? She’s not going to talk to Ginny about your stuff, is she?”
“Oh god,” Ron groaned.
“Sorry,” Harry sniggered. “I wasn’t ever going to say anything, but I figure I’ve only got a little while left to rib you about this stuff.”
They both winced at his words. Every minute ticking past was one less they’d ever have, and the thunder that rumbled in the distance was just a reminder of the darkness ahead.
“Fancy a game of Snap?” Ron asked, not feeling at all like playing cards.
Harry shrugged and said yes, not looking any more interested in playing than he was.
They talked casually about old school adventures and argued Quidditch statistics and poked fun of Ron’s brothers. It took effort to avoid any conversation that carried implication of the future. All the while, Ron watched Harry’s features become more sunken, and he became less focused. He began repeating himself occasionally and took longer to respond to a joke.
After another hour, their soup was ready, and Ron spooned it into tin mugs.
“Here ya go. It’s not much, I’m afraid.”
Harry took the mug by the handle, but his grip was weak, and it would have spilled if Ron hadn’t reacted quickly enough.
“Shit, sorry. Guess I’m tired.” Harry closed his eyes and rested his head back. “Need to kip a bit.”
“No,” Ron said urgently. “No, Harry, no sleeping, remember?” There was more panic in his voice than he wished he had let in, but he couldn’t help it.
Harry opened his eyes again, and Ron nearly jumped.
“Your eyes,” he whispered.
“What about my eyes?” Harry asked.
They were no longer a vivid green but a dim gray like the rest of his body.
“I guess I just never noticed them before,” he stammered
“Like my mum’s is what I hear,” Harry answered weakly. Ron was remembering Remus’ words about Harry’s best chance of fighting the illness being his mother’s Muggle blood, and it looked to Ron like that one chance had failed him now.
“I’ll just help you eat, all right?” Ron told him and perched on the edge of the couch. “And you’re not going to argue with me, either.”
Harry looked annoyed at first but accepted Ron’s spoon-fed bites with a slight regretful smile.
“It’s good,” he said. “You’re good with a potato.”
Ron sniggered quietly.
“Yeah, it’s a real talent. Call me Spud Slinger.”
Harry smiled and took another proffered bite, but their eyes met, and they looked down sheepishly. Ron didn’t mind feeding Harry but knowing he was uncomfortable made it awkward.
“Sorry,” Harry said. Ron looked up to protest and realized Harry was looking at the pale pink marks that wrapped his arms.
“What these?” He lifted his arms. “Another one of my own colossal fuck ups. Not your fault, Harry.”
“You were never a fuck-up, Ron. You were always there, and I’ve never forgotten.” He turned his head away the next spoonful. “Can’t eat anymore.”
“Just a little more. Keep your strength up.”
“Not even your potatoes are going to help me now. I can feel it.”
“No! Don’t say that,” Ron choked out. “Bugger, Harry, your nose is bleeding.”
He quickly grabbed a tea towel, and Harry held it to his face. He could see Harry fading away already.
“Funny,” Harry said after the bleeding stopped, his voice slightly raspy. “I always thought I’d go down in a flash of green, fighting.”
“Don’t, Harry.” Ron felt his insides grow cold.
“It’s okay. I’m not so afraid like I was before.”
Thunder rolled again, and Ron looked out the window as rain began to fall.
“Ron, tell everybody for me, how much they meant to me. Tell the girls, especially, how much I love ‘em.”
Ron nodded, not knowing how he’d ever manage it.
“And your folks too? They welcomed me, in spite of all the trouble. Thank them.”
“I will. But-”
“And Remus. He lost all of his friends because of me. Tell him I’m sorry.”
“Wasn’t your fault,” Ron said, apprehensively. “But I will, I’ll tell him.”
Harry took a few labored breaths after talking so much and closed his eyes. He went still and quiet, and Ron panicked. He dropped the mug of remaining soup to the floor and slid off the couch to kneel next to him.
“Harry! Not yet, Harry, I’m not ready.”
With his eyes still closed, Harry reached up and patted Ron’s face.
“Not yet, mate. ‘m still here.”
Ron’s nose twitched and burned, and stubborn tears swelled as utter grief exploded inside of him.
“Oh, God, I’m so sorry, Harry. I’m supposed to look after you! I’m so useless at most things. I know it. But keeping you safe was my job. It’s the only thing I’m good for, and I fucked it up. I let you down. I’m so s-sorry.” He broke down and sobbed into Harry’s chest. “I was supposed to keep you safe,” he whispered.
“You did,” Harry answered, straining to reach up and place his hand on Ron’s head. The effort of that alone caused him to take several deep breaths. “Still are, mate. You …still are.”
Ron lifted his face, broken with anguish and wet with tears. He met Harry’s eyes, which were only barely damp for the minute moisture his body could produce.
“Of all my brothers, Harry; you’re the one. The only one I chose to be my brother. Do you understand that?”
“My brother,” Harry gasped, and his near lifeless eyes fluttered. “Not blood, but … my only brother.”
Ron sat up and sniffed abruptly, wiping his face dry with his sleeve, though it didn’t stem the flow of tears.
“My blood,” he said with a quiet, shaky voice, scrabbling over to the table to retrieve his wand. “I’ll make you my blood brother, Harry. I will.”
He wiped his eyes again and sniffed, taking a breath to steady his hands. Holding his left hand up as he used a mild Sectus spell, slicing open his palm. Thick red droplets trickled out of him as he lifted Harry’s left hand, “I’m sorry,” he said and cut him.
The only reaction Harry had to the pain was to open his eyes again. His unfixed gaze lingered on the ceiling for a moment before he blinked and slowly looked over at Ron, who clasped their hands together, warm blood spilling together running down their arms.
“My blood is your blood now,” Ron said, with a hiccough.
Harry’s eyes flickered with concern. “No,” he breathed, barely above a whisper.
“You can’t hurt me,” Ron said, shaking his head. “We share the same blood now, me and you. Real blood brothers.”
Harry blinked away another tear and looked at their hands and the dark blood dripping through their fingers. He smiled and then looked at Ron’s face again.
“Thank you,” Harry mouthed and took a breath, squeezing Ron’s hand as tight as he could, and then his eyes shut.
Ron laid his head on Harry’s chest, and he squeezed Harry’s hand over and over again, waiting to feel Harry squeeze it back again, but he didn’t.
The ache in his heart was the worst sort of pain of he’d ever felt. It was far sharper than the open wound in his palm. He felt a wave of anguish wash over him that made him want to die as well.
“I’m right here, you bastard,” Ron cried. “Don’t go!”
Not feeling the bruises forming on his knees on the hard wood floor, he cried until exhaustion claimed him, and he fell asleep with his head on Harry’s chest.
And still he held onto his hand.
“I’m right here, Harry …”
. : .
He wasn’t sure if he heard or rather felt a thrum inside of his subconscious. The clouds in his heavy sleep ebbed away, but he definitely felt the throb of a crying-headache present.
He didn’t want to open his eyes.
He didn’t want to face the nightmare of seeing his dead best friend before him.
Disposing of his body.
Going back to his family empty handed.
How could he face Hermione or Ginny?
How could he face anyone, knowing that he let Harry slip away from him? The one absolute mission in his life, and he had failed.
His hand ached. The dull pain from the cut in his palm bothered him, but it was the pressure of squeezing Harry’s hand in his that was hurting.
Only, since he had just been asleep, his own hand was relaxed. It wasn’t him who was squeezing.
Ron snapped his eyes open, and he sat straight up.
It was Harry squeezing Ron’s hand tightly. So tight that Ron’s fingertips were turning red. He leaned down and rested his forehead against their knuckles, releasing a nervous release chuckle.
He finally looked at Harry’s face, and Harry opened his eyes. His clear, green eyes, and he smiled.
Harry nodded. “It’s me, brother,” he said softly, and gave Ron’s hand a tiny shake.
“You’re all right? Really?” It was too much to hope for.
“I feel better. Tired, but better. I’m not sure, but I think your blood helped me, Ron.”
“No way, I didn’t do anything.” He scratched the inside of his elbow nervously, their hands still stuck together by the sticky and mostly dried blood.
“I wonder,” Harry nodded at the scars on Ron’s arms, “if those had something to do with it?”
“… You think?” Ron asked.
“Doubt your immunity alone did it; lots of people have that. But only you have these scars. No telling what the effects would be.”
Ron smiled sheepishly, feeling more than a little incredulous. “Well I don’t even care why, I’m just … ” He lunged at Harry, hugging him tight and knocking his glasses askew.
He hadn’t let his best friend, his sixth brother, die after all.
Then he had a thought.
“So I wonder; if it was my blood that helped you, could it work in reverse?”
Harry straightened his glasses and blinked. “Come again?”
“Well, Voldemort has your blood in him now, right? And since you were susceptible to Malusemia, maybe he will be too?”
Harry just looked at him in amazement.
“No, no it’s stupid,” Ron blushed. “You’ll think of something better.”
“Ron! That’s not stupid. It might just be bloody brilliant!”
Harry just looked at him, shaking his head until Ron became self-conscious.
“You just don’t get it, do you?” Harry said quietly.
“Uhm, no, probably not. What?”
Harry snorted. “You’re an idiot, Ron, but not in the way you think! I’ve only made it this far because of you. If I live through the rest of this it’ll be because of you too. Give yourself some credit, okay?”
Ron blushed. In spite of a near death experience, this was getting a bit mushy for his comfort.
“All right, Harry. You win,” he protested weakly. “I make great potatoes!”
. : .
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