Pairings/Characters: Ron/James, Implied Harry/Ron
Warnings: Character Death, Angst
Summary: After the war, Ron spends his summer at the Burrow, trying to put the past behind him and move on. When he finds a locket, he's thrown back into the one thing he wants to escape – the past.
Author notes: (optional) I had a really tough time with this fic, especially since most of the time I was debating which pairing to use as most wanted to use Ron/Harry. So I went for the next best thing – James. I never state outright state what year James is in but I figure it's his sixth year since he and Lily don't get together till their seventh. Enjoy the fic and keep slashing!
Ron sighed as he pulled down a box from the shelf in front of him. Cleaning out the shed was not something he thought he'd be doing with his summer vacation. But it was better than thinking about the war, about the fight, about Harry.
He walked outside the small, old, dilapidated shed, which was only held up by magic, and placed the old cardboard box on the ground with the others. He noted that this one held his things. His mother had a box for each of her children, all of them holding old mementos, toys, clothes, and other knick knacks which should have been thrown out years ago.
He gave another sigh and sat himself down in front of the box before gingerly prying it open. He grinned when he came across his old teddy bear, one that he hadn't touched since his brother Fred had turned it into a spider in retaliation to Ron for accidentally breaking his toy broom. He placed the bear aside, pulling out his collection of Chocolate Frog cards, all in tip top condition and stacked neatly. Old clothes, the few that his parents had been able to afford to buy new but cheap were folded primly near the top. He placed them gently on the ground next to him before pulling out a simple, muggle picture.
He felt his eyes prickle with tears unintentionally as he looked at the smiling face of his best mate. He pulled out his wand and tapped the picture, letting it come to life. Harry was smiling, throwing his head back in a laugh, with his arms thrown over both Ron's and Hermione's shoulders, his lightening scar faded and almost unseen, his green eyes sparkling with happiness and mischief, something Ron hadn't seen really since before the end of their fourth year.
Ron remembered the day particularly well. It had been Harry's 17th birthday. Even with the war beginning to rage and life seeming at its lowest point, the Weasley family had somehow managed to throw Harry his first birthday party. They had held it at the burrow, inviting all of Harry's friends and the still surviving members of the Order that hadn't died already by then. Harry had been surprised but happy. It had been the first time Ron had seen his best mate truly smile since Cedric's death. Ron realized then that he had missed that smile and had promised that after the war he would be sure that he saw it almost everyday.
He wouldn't, however, be able to keep the promise. Feeling that all too familiar hiccup beginning to creep up his throat, he quickly stashed the photo back in the box, piling the other items on top of it so he wouldn't have to see. Harry was gone. Ron needed to realize that. The sooner he did, the sooner he could move on and live life as everyone else around him seemed to so easily do.
Ron bit his lip, trying to keep it from trembling as he quickly got back to work, clearing out the old shed, not daring to peek in the box labeled 'Harry Potter'. He placed it outside with the others, the last box to be carried out, before he went back inside and began to clear the floor of dirt and crinkled, browned leaves. It was as he was doing this that he noted something shimmering in the sunlight, lying forgotten and dusty on the one of the high shelves in the old shed. Ron propped the old sweeping broom up against an adjacent wall before he walked over to the self, standing up on his tip toes to reach the shimmering small object. He felt his hand clasp over it, finding it to be small as he took it off the shelf and brought it outside to get a better look.
It was an old locket, that much Ron could tell. The chain which it was clasped to was broken, fragile, and small, matching the lockets shimmering gold color. Wondering what was in it, his tried to pry it open and failed miserably. He sighed, putting it in his trouser pocket, figuring it was an old locket that had probably once belonged to his mother or perhaps another family member whom he couldn't recollect.
He moved to return to his work when he felt the locket warm, feeling the metal heat the fabric of his trousers pocket. Curious, he pulled the locket out again, feeling its warmth seep into his open palm. He pulled out his wand and tapped the locket gently. It popped open quickly, revealing its contents which Ron would have never guessed. A small hour glass was set inside it, gold sand trickling down into the lower half, slowly but surely.
He sighed, wondering what to do with the trinket. It was obviously full of magic and could be potentially harmful though Ron sincerely doubted that as his parents wouldn't have left it so out in the open, ready for anyone to take it to use. He closed it, shaking it a bit and put it back in his pocket before he returned to his work, his mind wondering what the small trinket could be.
Dinner was a silent affair, at least for Ron. Ginny chattered loudly about what she had done that day and how she was excited that Michael Corner would be coming to visit the next day. His parents talked about work, both at the Ministry and home while Fred and George who had stopped by to visit and help out around the house talked about the Weasley Wizarding Wheezes.
Ron sighed as he ate little, his appetite very much gone. He pushed the food around on his plate, his leg jiggling underneath the table. Finally unable to take the normalcy of the conversation when Harry should have been there with them, he stood up suddenly from the table and stalked upstairs, hearing his mother get up from the table and his father hold her back.
He entered his bedroom quietly and sat down on his bed. He groaned audibly, running his hand through his unruly hair which hadn't been brushed in three days times. He lied back on his bed, his hand digging into the pocket to pull out the old, mysterious locket. He looked at it, memorizing its complex markings, its shape, and weight, how it felt in the palm of his hand.
He pulled out his wand and tapped it like he had done the last time. And like the last time, it opened, revealing the small hourglass trapped inside, its gold sand still trickling down into the next chamber. It vaguely reminded him of a time-turner and Ron wished then and there that it was. Because then he could go back in time and save Harry, be there for him like he should have been. If anything, it should have been him. He should have stepped in front of that damned green light, like Harry's own mother had done years ago. But he didn't, it seemed like he couldn't, as if he was frozen in place, forever to reach out and not be able to grab on to him and pull him back.
His eyes burned and an uncharacteristic wail broke from his lips. Tears tumbled down his checks as he turned onto his side, gripping his pillow as he cried into it, mourning the loss of his best mate, and possibly the only person he had ever truly loved. He cried for hours it seemed, his tears dampening the pillow, his voice cracking from crying so loud as he buried his head into his pillow which had once held Harry's scent. He wished he could smell it then, to comfort him, to wrap around him and keep him safe, to tell him that Harry wasn't gone at all and that it was some horrid nightmare which he would wake up from soon.
But he couldn't seem to wake up. He was still softly sobbing into his pillow, the locket still clutched in his palm, Harry still gone. He tried to stop crying, tried to quell the tears and sobs that racked his body. He bit his lip and whimpered into his pillow, gripping it along with the locket and he squeezed his eyes shut to keep the tears in and push them back.
His throat felt sore, scratchy, and parched but he made no move to get up and retrieve a glass of water from the kitchen. He took in deep breaths as he covered his eyes with his arm. His hand clutched the locket tighter and he wished with all his might that it was a time-turner, that he could go back in time and see Harry, and save him, like he should have.
He wished long and hard until he finally fell asleep. Before he fell asleep, he wished that when he woke, Harry would be lying on the cot across the room from his bed, whole, perfect, but most of all alive.
"Well, what should we do with him?"
"Take him to Poppy I guess. I mean, he could have a concussion or something."
"Have you ever seen him before?"
"No, but he does look familiar. Maybe he's that Prewett guy that graduated two years ago!"
"Then why would he be here Wormtail?"
"Don't be such an ass Sirius, Peter was just giving a suggestion, besides, he does look a bit like that guy. Maybe he's trying to get a job here or something- we did just loose our D.A.D.A professor."
"Alright Moony, but we should still get him to Poppy. Get his feet, would you Prongs?"
"I got 'em – man he's heavy. Dead weight. Who do you think knocked him out?"
Ron groaned loudly, wanting to shift but finding he couldn't as he was being held up by two strong pairs of arms. He had the feeling of being moved which had suddenly stopped at his groan. He opened his eyes; looking downwards he saw the familiar head of black hair, the familiar squared jaw, the familiar straight, perfect nose. "Harry?" he croaked, thinking the impossible had finally happened. Somehow, he had survived.
Harry, or whom he thought Harry, looked at whoever was holding him up by his arms, confused. He felt that person shrug as Harry turned his gaze back to him. Then Ron noticed the flaws. His eye's weren't green, there was no scar, and his was taller, fit, healthier it seemed. "You're not Harry," Ron croaked, feeling his breath hitch in his throat as he looked at the imposter Harry, the person who had made him believe the impossible.
He tried to tell them to put him down, tried to communicate that he needed to go home, and not be there, where the imposter Harry was. But his eyes rolled back up in his head and his voice died when he tried to tell them. He was vaguely aware of the imposter Harry and the other boy carrying him. He couldn't bring himself to care why.
Ron awoke in the hospital wing at Hogwarts, though he didn't know it at the time. It felt familiar, looked familiar, but Ron didn't understand how he could be at Hogwarts when he had fallen asleep in his bed back at the Burrow. He furrowed his brows and grimaced as he opened his eyes, only to find the Harry-look-alike looming over him, along with three other boys around the same age.
"Poppy! He's awake!" one boy yelled grinning, his long black hair pulled back, strands falling into his face, a familiar face though Ron couldn't place him.
"Sirius," the scarred boy chastised next to him. Ron groaned, closing his eyes, placing his arm over them. The name was familiar, Ron knew why. The name fit the face but again, it was impossible. He was too young and too much alive. Sirius was dead – just like Harry.
He heard someone else joining them, pushing the two boys to the right of him out of the way. He put his arm down and opened his eyes frowning when he saw Madame Pomfrey now looming above him, checking his vitals and clucking her tongue at Sirius who snickered behind her.
"Where did you find him again?"
"Corridor near the dungeons. Damn Slytherins must have jumped him," Harry-look-alike stated his voice so much like Harry's although perhaps a bit lower.
"Considering that there is no bruising, I highly doubt that assumption Mr. Potter." She pressed at his arms, his ribs, and his legs while Ron stared at the Harry-look-alike, his brows furrowed in confusion. He noted that Harry-look-alike had crossed his arms, his lower lip jutting out in the same fashion that the real Harry had done numerous times whenever anyone rejected his theory of death eater slytherins.
"Then how come we found him passed out there?" Sirius added, wanting very much blame a certain slytherin in particular. "I bet it was Snivellus! Come on Remus, let's go hex that git!" With that, Sirius grabbed the boy next to him, hauling him out of the infirmary with the shorter boy waddling after them.
"If Severus Snape ends up in one of these beds, Mr. Black, you'll find yourself expelled before you can say Quidditch!" Pomfrey called after him but the three boys were out of sight, not doubt not hearing a word of what the young medi-witch had said.
She sighed, looking down at Ron as she put on a fake smile. "Now, what's you're name, dear?"
"Ron." She nodded, looking at him, waiting for a last name to accompany the first. Ron didn't give it, feeling that he shouldn't, even if he was leaning towards believing that he was simply dreaming of Harry's father. Because that's who was standing next to his bed. James bloody Potter. And the three boys who had just left were non-other than the rest of the marauders, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew.
Madame Pomfrey sighed, shaking her head and tutting as she walked off to inform the headmaster about the mysterious red-headed young man who sat in the infirmary, refusing to give up his last name. Ron closed his eyes, grimacing as tried to relax in the stiff bed. He didn't remember them being so stiff.
"Snape did this to you, didn't he? You don't have to lie," James stated as he took a sit down on the bed, pushing Ron's legs over as he did so. Just as stubborn, though more arrogant then Harry.
Ron shook his head in the negative and continued to stare at James, taking in the small flaws that if changed would have made him Harry. "Well then how did you end up there?" James pressed. Ron sighed and found himself shrugging. He couldn't care; after all, this was only a dream. "You should have given her your last name, you know. Now she'll bring Dumbledore here." Ron's eyebrows rose in shock. Dumbledore was alive.
He began to sit up only to realize that of course the old coot would be alive. If he was dreaming of James in his Hogwarts days, it only made sense that Dumbledore would be there too. "Anyways, I'm James Potter," he stated, holding out his hand. Ron took it gently, not putting much effort into shaking it which James seemed to decidedly ignore. "I'm guessing you'll be stuck here until they can find out who you are and how you got here. But don't worry, I'll stick by you." He said this with a brilliant grin and Ron couldn't help but remember how Harry had chosen him over Malfoy. It seems that his father was doing the same thing.
"Thanks," Ron stated softly, relaxing back into the bed and closing his eyes. He could feel James physically deflate at his side. Ron sighed and gave a crooked grin. "Sorry," he muttered, trying to look James in the eye and not think desperately that they were all wrong, the size, shape, color. "It's been a tough few months, and it doesn't look like it's getting any better."
"Well then, I'll just have to change that!" Ron gave a small nod and James' stomach growled audibly. "Feast is starting. I'll bring you up some food." He stood up, stretching before shoving his hands in his pockets and grinning toothily at Ron. "I'll see you later, Red." And with that he left Ron wondering if perhaps this was a dream at all.
The next week passed by in a blur, leaving Ron with the distinct impression that he was not dreaming, but had actually managed to somehow send himself back into the past. He met Dumbledore the next morning, seeing the old man alive and looking much younger than he had ever remembered. He still refused to give up his last name, knowing that the slightest move could change the future forever.
So he stayed in the infirmary, sleeping the day away unless James decided to visit. The two quickly became friends though Ron worried about what would happen when he had to go back home. Back to a place where Harry was gone. The thought made his stomach churn and bile begin to creep up his throat, leaving behind an unpleasant taste in his mouth. So he tried to forget but it was hard to do it when the man whom Harry had been modeled after in both looks and personality visited him everyday.
That night, when Ron was finally falling back into a dreamless sleep, he felt the all familiar pressure of a hand upon his shin and soon James' head was floating at the foot of his bed, a smile on his lips. "Brought you some food from the feast. Figured you like it better than the sandwiches they give you." Ron nodded and thanked James quietly as he accepted the small plate of food.
He ate it slowly, listening to James' tales of the marauder adventures, nodding and laughing at appropriate places. James always told Ron what the marauders were up to, though Ron knew that if the others had any inkling of what James told him, his new found friend would get into a bit of trouble.
James became quiet after a few minuets and Ron continued to stare at him, realizing that it was unusual for James to ever be quiet. Ron heaved a small sigh, placing the half-full plate of food on the night stand adjacent to his bed before he looked at James. He reached out, touching his shoulder, causing James to give a small jerk before he looked at Ron and attempted to give a small smile.
"It's a full moon," he whispered. Ron crooked one eyebrow upwards in confusion. "You heard them bring him in, right? Snape." Ron nodded in the affirmative. It had been one of the reasons he hadn't slept. They brought the young man in, whimpering around midnight. Pomfrey had treated him and left, leaving him curled up in a ball, his back to Ron, small whimpers coming from him until he finally fell asleep. Ron had been kind enough to get up and pull the curtain around him, knowing that Snape liked his privacy.
"I did that to him, Ron. I let him go in there and Moony couldn't control himself. I hurt both of them, Ron. What kind of friend am I?" James whispered, looking down at his hands, both covered in scratches. He looked too much like Harry. Ron sighed, and reached out again, grasping James' shoulder firmly.
"You stopped it. You knew what you were doing was wrong and you stopped it before any real danger could happen. You saved a life, James. That's more than most people can say. He'll forgive you one day." James didn't ask who Ron was referring to. He was glad he didn't. Ron didn't know who he was talking about anyway.
Two months passes and summer holiday was quickly approaching Hogwarts, leaving Ron to wonder if he would ever get back to his time. Dumbledore visited regularly, at least once every week, to check up on the 18 year old sitting in his infirmary. He didn't press Ron for his last name and only talked about what was going on with the school and how he had arranged for Ron to stay in Gryffindor Tower in case they didn't get him back before the end of term.
James visited during the day with the rest of the marauders and at night by himself, under the safety of the invisibility cloak. Snape had left a long time ago.
When it was just Ron and James, Ron found himself wishing that Harry could see his father, to know for sure just what a great man he was. James often asked who Ron thought about, wondering if it was 'Harry' whom Ron had called James when they first met. He asked about him, what his favorite food was, what color were his eyes, how did they become friends. Ron divulged as little information as possible, telling him that Harry loved quidditch and sweets. He never got to personal about Harry. It was too dangerous. For more than one reason.
James never pushed too much on it and let Ron have his space, though perhaps not physically. The younger boy often nudged Ron over and curled up next to him, both laying down and looking up at the enchanted ceiling over them, which Dumbledore had conjured for Ron's enjoyment. They watch shooting stares and talked about their dreams.
James wanted to be a professional quidditch player on the national team. Ron wanted a steady job owning a shop, which would sell quidditch memorabilia of course. James wanted a big family, with seven kids. Ron wanted to find someone to spend the rest of his life with and maybe adopt. James wanted to see the world. Ron wanted to live in Essex, near his family. James wanted to be famous. Ron wanted to be invisible.
James wanted Ron. Ron wanted to forget.
The last night of term came quickly and Ron seemed to be no where closer to getting home. James didn't visit him that week, neither during the day nor at night. Ron didn't think he'd come tonight either.
But James always had a tendency to prove people wrong. Ron was on his side, his eyes staring out the window to the stars. He felt the bed shift, added weight, and felt an arm drape over his waist and pull him back against the hard body behind him. Warm breath ghosted across his neck, hitching before returning to normal. A nose pressed against his shoulder. It was soon wet.
"I don't want to go."
"You have to."
"What if you're gone when I come back?"
A hand, hesitant, touched Ron's cheek and Ron wonder's why he would be so shy. He sighed and let his own hand over the other. Its owner bit his lip before bending down and pressing them against Ron's.
James closed his eyes and pressed his head to the crook of Ron's neck, his hands now grasping Ron's arms, his frail body pressed flush and fully against Ron's. Ron ran his hand through James' unruly black hair. "I don't want to go," James repeated his voice muffled against Ron's skin.
Ron sighed and pulled the covers over their spent, sweating, naked bodies. "Then don't."
Ron awoke in his bed back at the burrow the next morning, in his hand, the locket. He sat up, rubbing eyes, noting his sort back. He looked at the locket, still open. He looked at the inner part of the cover. There, inset was a picture of James, smiling. He stared at the picture, now positive it wasn't a dream.
He never noticed that the sand had stopped trickling.
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