Ron Bewildered and Rat’s Blood
It took almost half an hour for the shaken inhabitants of The Burrow to recover from Harry and Lupin’s surprise visits, and by the time Mrs Weasley had finally managed to usher them all back into their beds, the sun was coming in cheerfully through the rickety old windows of the house. She stayed up, of course, and could be heard muttering to herself worriedly in the kitchen. Harry listened to her bustling around, and to the old noisy Goul that seemed to be right inside his ears.
A few feet away, Ron twisted and turned underneath his own violent orange bedsheets. It was clear that he couldn’t get to sleep either, and was mulling things over. That, or the fact that his feet were uncovered by the too-small sheets was keeping him from dozing off. In the room next to them, Ginny and Luna could be heard talking in hushed voices. Harry didn’t need to guess what their conversation was about.
“That’s it, I’ve had it!” Ron exclaimed, leaping up from his bed and grabbing something in mid-air.
The fluffy ball that was Pigwidgeon, as it turned out, put up a hell of a fight. Ron marched to his window in three steps, looking determined, and thrust it open. Harry grinned, watching the minute owl hurled a few feet away and the window slammed shut again.
“You could be a Seeker, Ron,” Harry stated dryly.
Ron sighed, ruffling up his red hair, and dropped back onto his bed. He made no attempts to climb inside it again, but instead stared at Harry vaguely. After a few minutes of the uncomfortable gaze, Harry cleared his thoat loudly.
“Have I grown an extra scar or do you just like looking at me?”
Ron’s eyes widened and he shook his head, bewildered.
“It’s just too much, to take in I mean... I was just here sleeping peacefully, minding my own business... Alright, I was spying on Loony and Ginny, but peacefully all the same... And you pop in, all covered in a dirty load of blood, having put your uncle under the Imperius Curse! Could anything more happen to you? I’d like to know.”
At this point Pig started to throw himself against the window, causing a chain of consecutive bangs and shrieks.
“Well, I have yet to be on the receiving end of one of Ginny’s Bat-Bogey hexes,” Harry joked. He didn’t know where he was getting the energy from to be funny when all he wanted was to go to sleep, or possibly just die.
“You know what I mean... I’m just wondering if it’ll ever end...” Ron’s voice sounded faint.
Harry, having hardly ever heard Ron making a deep comment, looked up in surprise.
“How are you supposed to save the world when you’re bloody stuck in Azkaban? D’you think they’ll really put you in there with the Dementors? You’ll miss your last year of Hogwarts!” He sounded fearful.
“Don’t worry Ron, I’m sure they’ll still let me out during the day for classes, and to kill Voldemort. But I’m not sure about the Hogsmeade trips...”
Ron looked at Harry as though he’d gone mad.
“Harry, are you turning into You-Know-Who?”
Of all the things he could have said at that moment, this was the last thing Harry had expected. It wiped the smile right off his face.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m sorry, I’m being stupid...” Ron muttered, confused.
“Yeah, I think you’re right there,” Harry said angrily.
“You’ve performed an Unforgivable, Harry! You share his thoughts, his powers... You’re Parseltongue. You put someone under the Imperius curse, when Moody said that the only ones who can do that are powerful, Dark wizards...”
Harry didn’t like what Ron was getting at, but decided to put a damper on his anger for the moment. He knew from experience that sudden outbursts did little to help a situation. The annoying thing was that everything Ron said made perfect sense. Harry knew he wasn’t turning into Voldemort, but they were beginning to share a lot more than he liked to admitt... And Ron didn’t even know about the times Harry had performed the Cruciatus and the Avada Kedavra Curses. Although, that had been different in a way... One out of anger, had failed, and the other had given Voldemort a mere nosebleed. Just as Moody had predicted... The Imperius Curse had come so much more naturally, as though he’d been capable of it all along.
“It wasn’t Moody who said that, it was Barty Crouch, remember? Anyway, if I’m turning into Voldemort then you should watch out because you’re starting to show some Percy traits.”
Harry was satisfied when Ron paled slightly around the nose, and he lay back again. The matress he was lying on was uncomfortably thin, yet another factor preventing him from sleeping. The real breakingpoint came when Pigwidgeon crashed through the window, and the Crumple-Horned Snorkack in the Weasley’s backyard let out a large belch at the same time.
* * *
After three hours of ‘sleep’, Harry, Luna and the Weasleys were all huddled around the kitchen table once more. Ironically, the only person who looked more rested was Mrs Weasley. She seemed to be trying to cheer things up, and set huge amounts of bacon, pancakes and eggs on the wobbly table. Her apron had been enchanted to glow the words “Welcome Harry” on it. Was she trying to squash the fact that Harry could be shipped off to Azkaban any moment now?
“Alright, Remus shouldn’t be long now,” Mr Weasley said suddenly, glancing at his watch. Harry fell silent in the midst of a Quidditch discussion with Ginny, and Ron stopped eating abruptly. It was an odd sight, half of his pancake still hanging out of his mouth and the syrup dripping onto the floor.
“Ronald, how old are you?” Mrs Weasley snapped, but Luna took over from her and quickly wiped Ron’s mouth with her own turquoise hankerchief.
“Geroff... Argh!” Ron pushed a nonplussed Luna away, and his chair toppled over backwards in his hurry to escape.
“Ron! What a warm welcome,” a quiet voice said, and the long redhaired boy looked up in surprise. He was lying on the hem of Lupin’s robes, and quickly scrambled to get to his feet. The weary-looking man was carrying some of Harry’s trunks, and his caged owl, in his hands. As soon as Hedwig was released, she flew onto Harry’s shoulder and greeted him with a nip on the ear.
Harry’s stomach tightened in a knot as he watched Lupin’s friendly eyes drift towards him. What sort of news would he bring? Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good.
“Please, sit down, have something to eat,” Mrs Weasley said anxiously, fidgeting with her apron. She pulled out a rickety stool from under the table, but Lupin shook his head appreciatively.
“No thank you, Molly. Harry and I should be getting on our way.”
Harry swallowed hard.
“They aren’t taking him to that place, are they?” Ginny demanded. “Because if they are, I’m going on strike. I can convince the whole school not to go to Hogwarts if that’ll help him. Well, except for the Slytherins.”
Lupin chuckled, and patted Harry’s shoulder.
“You’ll do none of that. Fudge was shocked when he heard of what Harry had done, but he has decided to keep it a secret. He doesn’t want wizarding folk to know that the boy of the Prophecy commited such an offense. Unfortunately, he agrees that Harry cannot go unpunished. He will have to complete three weeks of Community Service in Diagon Alley.”
Harry let out a huge sigh of relief, and Ron and Ginny joined in. Mr Weasley nodded shortly, smiling to himself.
“What will Harry have to do?” Mrs Weasley asked, confused.
“He’ll work in the shops, lending a hand wherever he’s needed. Unpaid, of course. Dumbledore suggested that he stay with Fred and George while he’s there, would that be alright with you, Arthur?”
“Yes, of course!” Mr Weasley replied, but his wife suddenly look uncertain. She was probably wondering what sort of ideas her two rebelious sons would put into Harry’s head.
“That’s settled then. Come on Harry, there’s no time to spare.”
Harry quickly got to his feet, and took some of the trunks out from Lupin’s hands. He turned back to the table to smile at the Weasleys and Luna one last time.
“Thank you for everything, Mrs Weasley,” he said, taking his Firebolt from her hands. She stroked him over the head, smiling slightly.
“Don’t be silly. You take care of yourself, dear. Just because you’re all grown up now doesn’t mean you should get yourself into trouble.”
“We’ll come to visit when we go buy our school things, Harry!” said Ron, and Ginny nodded profusely.
Lupin muttered something about the time, and Harry found himself concentrating on his centre again. Focusing on his scar in all his might...
“Aren’t you going to say goodbye to Phlydorus?” Luna said vaguely, but before Harry could answer something inside him shifted, and the surroundings changed instantly to a street packed with people in robes. They were walking in and out of shops, arms loaded with goods, and everyone was surprised when he suddenly appeared infront of them, out of the blue.
“Harry Potter! Come to do some shoppin’, have yeh?” a bulky man bellowed, as though he was Harry’s lifelong friend.
Harry shrugged, and tried to avoid the stares of the other people, that were now crowding around him. The worst was the children, because they would say what they thought of him out loud as opposed to whispering, like their parents.
“Let’s go, Harry, this way,” Lupin called out from the distance, and the wizards around Harry parted to let him through. He felt himself glowing red from embarrasment. Why did he have to be so bloody famous...? And it had all gotten worse after last year, when news of the Prophecy was spread everywhere by Ron. Those three weeks would turn out to be very long if things went like this.
* * *
The twins’ appartment was on the very top floor of a tall building, right above the Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. The only way to get to it was going through the joke shop to the back, where there was a staircase behind the counter. Once Harry had found it and set down his things, Lupin quickly left him to get back to some ‘Order business’.
“Harry! Welcome to our humble abode, new roommate,” George Weasley called out, ignoring the boy that was trying to buy a Skiving Snackbox. He pulled Harry behind the counter, and flung some liquorish into his hands.
“Er... What’s this?”
“Try it! You’ll be the first one. This marvellous invention is meant to give the consumer elastic abilities... You’ll be able to touch Trelawney’s behind all the way in Hogwarts while still standing here! Although I daresay you wouldn’t want to...”
Fred, his identical twin, came rushing out from the storeroom.
“Did I hear the word ‘Harry’? Where’s our famous friend?”
Harry smiled sheepishly. The ignored customer was starting to throw a tantrum, but no one seemed to care.
“You’ll be absolutely smashing for business! Everyone will buy here when they know you’re staying with us... Not that we need it, things are going excellent already,” Fred boasted loudly, pulling off his flashy black sunglasses.
“Very right you are! I’m letting him try out the Longish Liqourish at the moment, seeing as no one else wants to...” said George. “I suppose the fact that rat’s blood is one of the ingredients puts everyone off...”
Harry quickly stuffed the liquorish into his back pocket, while pretending to chew.
“I told you Jorge, you’re not supposed to tell people that! It’s bad for business!” Fred cried out.
Harry raised an eyebrow.
“Why are you calling him ‘Jorge’?”
Fred threw his twin a dark look, and George whistled, feigning ignorance.
“It’s because of his dreadful new girlfriend,” Fred said in an undertone.
George sighed loudly.
“I’ve told you, Josephine isn’t my girlfriend! I’m just giving her a place to stay because Mundungus kicked her out of the house, that’s all...”
Harry regarded George in disbelief. He didn’t need to ask what Josephine Fred was referring to, because it was all too clear. The year before, Ron had been somewhat infatuated with Josephine Fletcher, Mundungus’ daughter. Things had turned sour when she joined Malfoy as a mean Slytherin, allegedly even working for Voldemort. Harry couldn’t believe that George would let someone like that live with him.
“Ron’s Josephine?” he asked slowly, and Fred nodded grimly.
Suddenly the boy at the counter threw his Skiving Snackboxes on the floor, wailing loudly.
“I’m never coming back here again! I’m going to Zonko’s from now on! I hate this shop!”
Fred calmly pulled the Knuts from the boy’s hand and with a wave of his wand, silenced him.
“There, now we can talk in peace. Those little buggers won’t let me rest for a second...”
Harry watched in surprise as the boy picked up his bought goods, and happily left the Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.
“When Ron hears about this he’ll go mad...” Harry mumbled, and George turned slightly red around the nose.
“Jo’s sorry for what she did last year. She’s making up for it, she’s even working hard to join the Order like us! And it’s not easy for her with Katie and Fred hating her...”
Harry remembered what Katie Bell had told him at the end of last year; that she would be staying with the twins. So there would be five people in their appartment...
“It’s alright, I don’t mind,” Harry said quickly, and George smiled gratefully.
He suddenly leaned over and whispered, “You sure showed that Muggle you lived with, huh? Maybe you should try controlling Peeves sometime, make him fly over here... Fred and I would just love him as a pet...”
Fred laughed loudly, but suddenly his expression changed.
“Hey, has that liquorish taken effect yet? Your arms and legs should be getting all wobbly and stretchy by now.”
Harry flexed his fingers, pretending to try and make them longer. The Longish Liquorish was still safely in his back pocket.
“Hm...” George scratched his head thoughtfully. “Maybe we should work on it some more. What d’you reckon, Fred? That rat’s blood not fresh enough?”
* * *
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