Warnings: Mentions of character deaths and disabilities
Word Count: 802
Summary: Ron lives two lives: one with Neville, and one without.
Disclaimer: The characters herein are not my creation, nor are they my property. They are the sole creation of JK Rowling, and are the property of Ms. Rowling, Scholastic/Bloomsbury books, and Warner Brothers. No copyright infringement is intended by this endeavor, nor is any profit being made or sought.
Ron had never really thought about the differences between Muggles and Wizards while growing up. Now he knows there aren't many, especially in pubs. Magical or not, the same stories come up: the big deal waiting just round the corner, how it was all the other person's fault, and how this is the last one for the night. He just smiles, pours, listens to their lies, and learns. He's become a pretty good liar himself.
Ron springs from his seat and performs the countercurse.
"Malfoy! I met him outside the library and he'd been looking for someone to practice on."
"Don't worry about it, Nev, you're worth 20 of him."
"Really? Thanks, Ron."
He rarely sees Hermione anymore, just the random occasion when she drops by in an attempt to bolster the non-existent Magical economy. Muggle-borns have it easier in this post-war world; they have means of making their way not reliant on magic. She doesn't have to tend bar in two different places, nor does she still live at home while making do on rations. Harry has also returned to the Muggle world, or perhaps not. Ron isn't sure as he hasn't seen his best friend since everything ended, though his name comes up often at "The Leaky Cauldron." That is one subject he doesn't like to talk about.
"What are you moping about for?"
"Good, 'cause we don't want to be late for the party in the Common Room."
Neville smiles shakily, realizing that the time they've spent in each other's company won't come to an end just because Ron and Harry are speaking again.
At the "Leaky" patrons still ask for Tom out of habit. Ron doesn't mind, he just pours their drinks and smiles, sneaking extra crisps to those who need it most, like Lockhart. Other former patients wander in from time to time finding a brief respite from the street, the safe harbor of St. Mungo's long gone, and Ron does his best to point them to various Muggle shelters.
"I never knew,"
"I did. Professor Dumbledore told me, but I promised not to say anything."
"I knew too."
"Neville told me when I asked about his family, but he asked me not to tell anyone."
Closing up for the night, Ron casts the wards and other defensive spells, thinking that when he was in the D.A. he never imagined using them like this.
"I reckon we should all divide up in pairs and practice."
"Oi! Neville. You can practice with Hermione and me. We'll take turns."
He zigs and zags on his way to the Apparation point, taking numerous shortcuts. These days he is willing to share that knowledge if anyone needs it.
"Don't listen to Peeves. Come with me and Harry."
The acrid smell of burnt fabric fills their dorm room as Seamus rummages for another pair of trousers. Neville picks up the burnt ones and vanishes them.
Climbing the stairs to his room, the sounds of years of family life reverberate in his head, and for a moment the lies he tells himself fade. Seamus is never coming back, nor is Dean. Colin didn't show up tonight, and the worry overtakes Ron for the Muggle-born man. If he doesn't appear tomorrow, Ron will go looking for him; bringing as much food as they can spare. Reaching the confines of his room, he remembers all the times Harry was here, and others who never were. Enough. He will close his eyes and dream.
Tangled sheets, mussed hair, and cold feet; all normal for this time of year. Neville is a bit of a cover hog, but Ron doesn't mind. His heart broke two years ago when they had to send Neville away; now that he is back, Ron can't find anything to complain about. A bed-sitter isn't much, but it's all they need. They very rarely spend anytime at home out of bed anyway, something Harry uses quite often to take the Mickey out of them. Ron lets Harry have his laugh; Harry will never know what it is like to go from being Neville's hero, to his friend, to his confidant and then to his lover. He won't know what it is like to feel and see Neville writhe underneath him in the light of the Rememberall that first brought them together. Harry can only guess how many times during the summers Ron and Neville snuck up to the attic together. His best mate will certainly never know the joys of waking up in the harsh light of winter to see...
An owl. Stumbling out of bed, Ron opens the window, and removes the parchment. Bleary eyed, and suddenly slightly queasy, he reads the familiar handwriting:
Neville and I are making a quick jump back across the pond. I'm really hoping we can all get together for dinner. Tell Molly she doesn't have to cook. I mean I know she'll want to, but we want to take you all out one night as well.
See you soon, Mate.
P.S. Neville wants me to remind you the offer still stands to come over here. We have a room just waiting for you."
Ron crumples the paper, and then tosses it, watching it bounce off the slanted walls. In a few days, he will have to see them together. Until then, he can keep lying to himself that he did things differently.
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